France’s attempt to win back-to-back World Cups is still on after a 2-1 win over England in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
Olivier Giroud put France ahead in the 78th minute when he headed the ball off Harry Maguire’s shoulder and into the back of the net. England had a chance to tie a few minutes later after Theo Hernandez bowled over Mason Mount in the penalty box.
It was a clear foul, although it wasn’t called on the field. After a video review, referee Wilton Sampaio was summoned to the monitor and granted the penalty kick. But Harry Kane – who had scored on a penalty earlier in the second half – skied his spot kick over the crossbar in the 84th minute.
France then saw out the final 16 minutes of the game as England pressed forward for the tie. England’s best chance in added time came in the 100th minute on a free kick just outside the box. But Marcus Rashford’s kick went just over the crossbar seconds before the final whistle.
The game was extremely close; neither side really had a consistent advantage and both had excellent chances to score turned away by the goalkeepers.
England’s Jordan Pickford made a couple of phenomenal saves while France’s Hugo Lloris was challenged more than he’d been in the first four games of the tournament. Lloris came up big when he tipped a missile off the foot of Jude Bellingham over the bar.
Giroud’s goal was the 53rd of his career for France. He became the country’s all-time leading goal scorer when he scored against Poland in the Round of 16. Giroud famously didn’t score at all despite being France’s starting striker as the team won the 2018 World Cup and he wasn’t set to be a part of the starting lineup in 2022.
But an injury to Karim Benzema before the tournament opened the door for Giroud to take a starring role again and he grabbed it. As Kylian Mbappé has commanded the attention of defenders and fans, Giroud has taken advantage of the opportunities he gets inside the penalty box.
France is the first team since Brazil in 1998 to make it to the semifinals of a World Cup after winning the previous one. If France beats Morocco in the semifinals on Wednesday and defeats the winner of Croatia and Argentina in the final, it will be the first country to win back-to-back men’s World Cups since Brazil in 1958 and 1962.
France scored first on an incredible strike from Aurelien Tchouameni. He found himself alone outside the penalty box and blistered a shot between Bellingham’s legs that beat Pickford at his right post.
England tied the game less than 10 minutes into the second half after Tchouameni tackled Bukayo Saka in the box and Kane converted the ensuing penalty kick.
England had 16 shots to France’s eight and put eight on target to France’s five. England can also feel they deserved at least a free kick inside the first 20 minutes when Kane was apparently fouled just outside the penalty box.
Sampaio didn’t whistle for a foul, but the play was checked by the video assistant system for a possible penalty kick. The review determined that Kane was not in the box when the contact occurred. The play also showed a flaw within the VAR system.
Video review is used to check only potential penalty kicks. Since the contact on Kane was deemed to be out of the box, a free kick could not be given. The options were either a penalty kick or no foul at all.
The loss is a massive disappointment for an England side that sees its streak of failing to win a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup continues. The Three Lions reached the final of Euro 2020 a summer ago before losing to Italy in penalty kicks. And they entered this World Cup as one of the favorites to win.
England showed that favorite status by going undefeated in Group B and easily beating Senegal in the Round of 16. But it ran into a France side that had just as much talent across the field.
France entered the tournament as the deepest squad in the world. And it’s had to use that squad depth as four starters — Benzema, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Lucas Hernandez — have missed most or all of the tournament.