AL KHOR, Qatar — World Cup holders France are through to the semifinals in Qatar after Olivier Giroud‘s 78th-minute header earned Didier Deschamps’ side a 2-1 win over England at Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday.
Aurelien Tchouameni‘s superb 17th-minute strike was cancelled out by Harry Kane‘s 54th-minute penalty, but after Giroud had restored France’s advantage, the England captain missed a second spot kick when presented with a chance to equalise six minutes later. Les Bleus withstood a final stand from England, holding on to secure their place in the final four.
1. Penalties cost England again
This time it wasn’t a shootout, but England are out of the World Cup after their most reliable penalty taker — one of the best in the world — missed a spot kick from 12 yards with six minutes left. Kane had already scored one penalty earlier in the match, equalling Wayne Rooney’s all-time England goal-scoring record in the process, but when stepping up again to face his Tottenham Hotspur teammate Hugo Lloris with an opportunity to level a finely balanced match at 2-2 late on, he uncharacteristically blazed his effort over the crossbar. It was only the fourth time he had missed for England from 21 attempts.
In the buildup to the game, Kane played down any issue of familiarity with Lloris.
“Surprisingly I haven’t practiced too much against Hugo, I would normally practice against the second- or third-choice goalkeeper on the day before the game when you normally practice with them,” Kane said. “I’ve taken them against him, but I wouldn’t say loads and loads, but I have it similar against Premier League goalkeepers when I face an England goalkeeper, I stick to my process and stick to the practice before the game.”
Kane scored against Lloris in a June 2017 friendly, but when it mattered most, the 29-year-old — who has been in fine form throughout this tournament — came up short, evoking memories of England’s Euro 2020 final shootout defeat to Italy last summer — and all the penalty drama of seven previous tournament exits by that mode.
2. Giroud continues to prove invaluable
Giroud spent nine years in England with Arsenal and Chelsea but was not always fully appreciated. His longevity has been remarkable, and aged 36, replacing Karim Benzema after the Real Madrid striker missed this tournament through injury, he made the defining contribution in a World Cup quarterfinal with an excellent header, beating Harry Maguire to Antoine Griezmann’s left-wing cross.
Giroud broke Thierry Henry’s all-time men’s goal-scoring record for France during their round-of-16 win over Poland, after which Deschamps said: “He has had difficult periods in his career. He has often been criticised, but people are now seeing his quality.”
Some of those difficult periods were in England, but his big-game mentality came to the fore here. France edged a game of fine moments as their experience in the latter stages of major tournaments — and as defending champions — told, and Giroud epitomised that strength of character.
Much of the prematch focus was on Kylian Mbappe‘s battle with Kyle Walker — France’s opening goal came in part from the first time Walker went upfield, only for England to lose possession — but in the end, after Tchouameni’s stunning first-half strike, Griezmann and Giroud were the combination that did in the Three Lions.
3. Will Southgate carry on after England falter against another elite nation?
England manager Gareth Southgate has a contract to 2024, but there was a degree of speculation over whether he would have the drive to carry on after six years at the helm, especially given the criticism he received in the summer when England were relegated from the Nations League, much of it coming from a section of Three Lions supporters. However, the team’s progress under Southgate is undeniable, coming so close to delivering England’s first major tournament win since 1966. And both the manner of this narrow defeat to France and the composition of a young, dynamic squad should encourage him to continue, but England have ultimately fallen short when attempting to beat an elite nation in a knockout game away from Wembley.
He cannot be accused of being overly cautious here, sticking with a 4-3-3 shape that was designed to give Jude Bellingham the chance to affect the game while Bukayo Saka (who was excellent) and Phil Foden operated in support of Kane, trying to beat France as equals rather than containing and counterattacking. Southgate has overseen six of England’s 15 victories in knockout football, but their wins away from home soil came against Colombia and Sweden in Russia, Ukraine in Rome last summer and Senegal in Qatar.
Southgate has done so much to deconstruct England’s habitual tournament failings, but this inability to defeat a top side on the road is a glass ceiling that requires further work to break.
Player ratings (1 = worst, 10 = best)
France: Hugo Lloris 7, Jules Kounde 7, Raphael Varane 7, Dayot Upamecano 6, Theo Hernandez 5, Adrien Rabiot 7, Aurelien Tchouameni 7, Ousmane Dembele 7, Antoine Griezmann 9, Kylian Mbappe 7, Olivier Giroud 8
Subs: Kingsley Coman 6
Best and worst performers
BEST: Antoine Griezmann, France. Two more assists, the second of which was a stunning cross from the left for Giroud’s winning goal.
WORST: Theo Hernandez, France. Poor penalty to concede when barging into the back of Mount — a decision only made worse by the referee’s inability to give it on first viewing.
Highlights and notable moments
Before the match, FIFA honoured longtime American journalist Grant Wahl, who died early Saturday morning after falling ill while covering Friday’s quarterfinal between Argentina and the Netherlands.
FIFA honored American soccer writer Grant Wahl with a tribute on the desk where he was due to work at the World Cup match between France and England.
Wahl died early Saturday while covering the match between Argentina and the Netherlands in Qatar.
— ESPN (@espn) December 10, 2022
Absolute agony for captain Kane, and the Three Lions’ penalty curse continues.
HARRY KANE MISSES THE PENALTY 😱 pic.twitter.com/UwDpI8qXpQ
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 10, 2022
After the match: What the players and managers said
Henderson on Kane: “We know how many penalties Harry has scored for us, how many goals he has contributed to even get us here. He will be stronger for this in the future. He is a world-class striker and our captain, he will bounce back.”
Giroud: “England played a great game and I would like to tell them that we are proud to have beaten such a great team.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
– This was the eighth time England conceded the first goal in a World Cup knockout-stage game; the Three Lions have won only one of those matches: the 1966 final vs. West Germany.
– Kane’s fourth career goal from the penalty spot in World Cups ties Rob Rensenbrink, Gabriel Batistuta and Eusebio for most of all time by any men’s player.
– Kane’s missed penalty is the first England have failed to convert in a World Cup match (excluding shootouts). They were 12-for-12 previously.
England: The Three Lions return to action on March 23, when they travel to Italy for a rematch of the Euro 2020 final in Euro 2024 qualifying.
France: Les Bleus march on to the semifinals, where they’ll meet Morocco on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET.
Penalties doom England again as France knock out Three Lions