France moved up a gear to beat Bulgaria 3-1 and qualify for the quarter-finals as Group B winners.
The two teams met with identical records from their opening two fixtures but while Les Bleus left St James' Park with the rest of the tournament to look forward to, Bulgaria were left to ponder their early exit following Spain's late winner against Romania.
It looked an uphill struggle for Dimitar Penev's charges from the moment Laurent Blanc put France in front midway through the first half. Luboslav Penev's own goal made it 2-0 and although the ever-dependable Hristo Stoichkov halved Bulgaria's arrears, Patrice Loko put the result beyond doubt in the final minute.
Having missed out on the 1994 FIFA World Cup as a result of two defeats by Bulgaria in qualifying, Aimé Jacquet's team had more than one motivation this time around. They deservedly took the lead on 21 minutes when Blanc timed his run to perfection and headed Youri Djorkaeff's corner down and over the line.
Another Djorkaeff set piece combined with another foray forward from Blanc led to France's second, Luboslav Penev this time unwittingly turning into his own net. Stoichkov put his team back in contention six minutes later, though, curling in a free-kick to register his third goal in as many games.
That was as good as it got for the Bulgarians – even after news filtered through of Spain taking a late lead in Leeds, they had nothing left to give. Loko completed the scoring when he beat a lethargic offside trap and rounded goalkeeper Borislav Mihaylov before finishing left-footed.
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