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France beat Bulgaria in Group B to reach EURO '96 last eight

France 3-1 Bulgaria
France secured a comfortable win to go through as Group B winners and leave Bulgaria in third.

France celebrate a goal against Bulgaria
France celebrate a goal against Bulgaria Icon Sport via Getty Images

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.

EURO '96: All you need to know

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.

The best goals of EURO '96

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.

EURO '96: Team of the Tournament


Referee Dermot Gallagher speaks to Bulgaria captain Hristo Stoichkov
Referee Dermot Gallagher speaks to Bulgaria captain Hristo StoichkovIcon Sport via Getty Images

France: Lama; Lizarazu, Blanc, Desailly, Thuram; Karembeu, Djorkaeff, Guérin, Zidane (Pedros 62), Deschamps (c); Dugarry (Loko 70)
Substitutes: Angloma, Di Meco, Leboeuf, Lamouchi, Barthez, Madar, Roche, Martins, Martini
Coach: Aimé Jacquet

Bulgaria: Mihaylov (c); Tsvetanov, Hubchev, Ivanov, Kremenliev; Letchkov, Yankov (Borimirov 79), Balakov (Donkov 82), Yordanov; Penev, Stoichkov
Substitutes: Kiryakov, Kostadinov, Popov, Genchev, Sirakov, Ginchev, Georgiev, Zdravkov
Coach: Dimitar Penev

Referee: Dermot Gallagher (England)

Man of the Match: Laurent Blanc (France)