HANOVER: An inspired France marshalled by Zinedine Zidane swept to a 3-1 win over Spain here on Tuesday to set up a dream World Cup quarter-final date with Brazil.
Spain took the lead with a penalty from David Villa before Frank Ribery levelled, with Patrick Vieira and Zidane finishing off a memorable night for Les Bleus.
France had promised to show her true face after making heavy weather of her opening group matches and she kept her word as Raymond Domenech's ageing side produced their prettiest football since arriving in Germany and arguably the best since he took over after Euro 2004.
But it was Spain who went ahead in the 26th minute after defender Lilian Thuram tackled Pablo Ibanez from behind, stepping on the Atletico Madrid defender's ankle.
Zidane said that France had been determined to show that their laboured first round showings were not a true indication of their quality.
"We're really happy as we had a great desire after a first round that wasn't too easy for us to show we had the quality to do something," Zidane said.
Coach Raymond Domenech could afford to joke that things had finally gone well on the night for his side of "oldies," who some critics have for weeks dubbed too long in the tooth to do well at the tournament.
"We were admirable on all levels, courageous, reactive, solid, intelligent, lucid and patient," he insisted.
"Patrick Vieira was written off, Zizou ought not to be playing... But our little team of oldies are still in there. They may be old but they are patient," noted Domenech, saying that he couldn't wait for a match with Brazil.
"It's for matches like that that we are here." Striker Thierry Henry said that the French midfield had pulled out all the stops against talented rivals.
"It was a good game and our midfield did really well. We were confident - but maybe if we'd played Spain right from the outset not many people would have backed us," he said in allusion to France's poor early form Spanish keeper Iker Casillas was distraught at the defeat.