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Olympics: European Finalists Set
March 27th, 1996 12AM

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France, Spain and Italy all earned berths to the 1996 Olympic men's soccer tournament with wins in the quarterfinals of European U-21 Championship.

France crushed Germany 4-1 before 25,000 fans in Metz to win their series 4-1 on aggregate. Hometown star Robert Pires and Florian Maurice of Lyon both had two goals. The French led 3-0 at halftime.

Spain recovered from an early 1-0 deficit to beat the Czech Republic 2-1 on a pair of late goals from Real Madrid teenager Raul and go through 4-2 on aggregate. The game was watched by 12,000 fans in Prague.

Needing to win to ensure a berth in the Olympic finals, Italy beat Portugal 2-0 before 18,000 fans in Palermo. Christian Vieri scored in the first half and Portuguese star Peixe struck an own goal in the second half that proved to be the decider. Even though they lost 2-1 on aggregate, the Portuguese had already clinched no worse than a wild-card berth into the Olympic finals.

Hungary also had already qualified, having clinched the best record in the tiebreaker standings two weeks earlier. It lost to Scotland 3-1, dropping its series 4-3 on aggregate.

Since Scotland is ineligible for the Olympics, the two quarterfinal losers with the best records in the tiebreaker went through.



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