Oliver Giroud sent France into a World Cup semi-final meeting with Morocco as his late header after Aurelien Tchouameni’s opener clinched a 2-1 win against England as Harry Kane blazed a penalty over the bar six minutes from time on Saturday.
Four years ago Giroud did not manage a shot on target in the entire tournament as France won the title but in Qatar, he now has four goals and has become his country’s record goalscorer along the way.
France are now one win away from becoming the first back-to-back finalists since Brazil in 2002 and two from becoming the third team to retain the trophy after Brazil in 1962 and Italy in 1938.
“It’s extraordinary, we worked a lot in defence and in the end we managed to threaten,” 36-year-old Giroud said.
“We knew the potential of this young England team. They have everything but we played a solid game, we tried to hurt them on the break. We went for it with all our mental strength.”
France really did have to work hard for their win as the first major tournament knockout match between the two old sporting rivals maintained the excitement of this extraordinary quarter-final weekend.
England played with purpose for long periods and after Kane brought them level from the spot early in the second half, they looked the more likely winners.
“It feels like a missed chance because I felt the performances were really good and the focus and the hunger was good every single day,” said England midfielder Jordan Henderson.
“You’ve got to give credit to France, they’re a good team, but I think I felt it was there for us to win tonight.”
France went ahead after 17 minutes when Antoine Griezmann rolled the ball invitingly into the path of Tchouameni, whose 25-yard low shot flew just inside the post and beyond goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Gareth Southgate’s England side eventually got going, pushing and probing, and France keeper Hugo Lloris was quick off his line to save at the feet of Kane, then parried another drive from England’s captain.
Lloris was in action again at the start of the second half, tipping a fierce Jude Bellingham shot over the bar as England came out full of purpose.
Bukayo Saka was then tripped by Tchouameni and Kane smashed the penalty high beyond his Tottenham Hotspur teammate Lloris to draw level with Wayne Rooney as England’s record scorer on 53 goals.
England, beaten semi-finalists four years ago, were buoyed by the goal and were playing with huge confidence but although centre-back Harry Maguire brushed a post with a header, they could not make their dominance count.
Instead, France hit back as Griezmann swung in a perfect centre that Giroud did brilliantly to reach in front of Maguire, planting his header into the net for his fourth goal of the tournament.
The cross took the ever-elusive Griezmann beyond Thierry Henry as his country’s top assist provider with 28 and was another reminder of why he has played the last 72 internationals in a row.
England were given another lifeline via VAR, when Theo Hernandez flattened Mason Mount but this time Kane sent his spot kick wildly over the bar in a painful reminder of Chris Waddle’s effort when they lost the 1990 semi-final shootout to West Germany.
England pushed for an equaliser but when substitute Marcus Rashford’s added-time free kick fizzed just over the bar, they fell to a seventh defeat in 10 World Cup quarter-finals.
France, however, continue their incredible World Cup run.
“It’s fabulous, it was a big game,” said coach Didier Deschamps.
“We played a superb England team who are strong technically and physically. It’s brilliant for the players to be in the last four again. We got a bit lucky although we gave away two penalties. We kept our lead with our hearts and our guts.”
“We will prepare for the next game thoroughly. Morocco deserve praise. Maybe they were not expected to be here (in the semis), but they conceded only one goal and seeing them here is not a surprise at all,” he added.
- FIFA WORLD CUP 2022
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