FIFA World Cup

‘Heart and guts’ earn France semis spot as England misses late penalty

Reuters
‘Heart and guts’ earn France semis spot as England misses late penalty

TANGLED. France's Olivier Giroud (right) in action with England's Harry Maguire.

Hamad I Mohammed/REUTERS

France’s hopes of becoming the first team in 60 years to retain the World Cup keep rolling after sending off England

AL KHOR, Qatar – Coach Didier Deschamps said France beat a good England side with their “heart and guts” on Saturday, December 10, to move into the World Cup semifinals and keep alive their hopes of back-to-back titles.

Oliver Giroud sent France into a last four date with Morocco as his late header after Aurelien Tchouameni’s opener clinched a gutsy 2-1 win over England with Harry Kane blazing a penalty over the bar six minutes from time.

The victory kept alive French hopes of becoming the first team in 60 years to retain the World Cup with a 2-1 win over England.

“It’s fabulous, it was a big game,” said 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,”added Deschamps, who captained them to their first World Cup triumph in 1998 and coached them to their second title four years ago.

“In these moments you kind of wish time could stop for a while.

“But tonight we’re going to enjoy it. We got a bit lucky although we gave away two penalties. We kept our lead with our hearts and our guts.”

England captain Kane equalized with a penalty in the 54th minute but sent a second penalty half an hour later over the bar.

France now stands one win away from becoming the first back-to- back finalists since Brazil in 2002 and two from being the third team to retain the trophy after Brazil in 1962 and Italy in 1938.

Giroud, who passed Thierry Henry to become France’s all-time top goalscorer earlier in the tournament, said Les Bleus had had to be at their best to beat England.

“This goal tonight, the 53rd, is even better (than equalling Henry). Just before I had a chance that I should have hit harder and scored,” he said.

“I thought I might get another chance and when it came to me it was an unbelievable feeling to score.

“You need to keep believing,” he added. “[Antoine Griezmann] gave me a super ball, it’s so good for the team, it’s awesome.

“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 will be heavy favorites when they play Morocco – the first African team ever to reach the semis after their 1-0 win over Portugal – on Wednesday looking to reach a third World Cup final after winning the title in 1998 and 2018.

“We will prepare for the next game thoroughly. Morocco deserve praise,” said Deschamps. “Maybe they were not expected here (in the last four), but they conceded only one goal and then, seeing them here is not a surprise at all.”

Tchouameni strike

France really did have to work hard for their win as the first major tournament knockout match between the old sporting rivals maintained the excitement and edge-of the seat drama that has made it such an extraordinary quarterfinal weekend.

They went ahead after 17 minutes when, after a length-of-the-field break, Griezmann rolled the ball invitingly into the path of Tchouameni, whose 25-yard low shot flew just inside the post.

England eventually got going, pushing and probing, and France keeper Hugo Lloris was quick off his line to save at the feet of Kane and 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 and energy.

The dangerous Bukayo Saka was then tripped by Tchouameni and Kane smashed the penalty high beyond his Tottenham Hotspur team mate Lloris to draw level with Wayne Rooney as England’s record scorer on 53 goals.

England, beaten semifinalists four years ago, were buoyed by the goal and were playing with huge confidence but although center-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 center that Giroud did brilliantly to reach in front of Maguire, planting his header into the slimmest of gapsafter 78 minutes.

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 an extraordinary 72 internationals in a row.

Penalty miss

England were then 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 equalizer but when substitute Marcus Rashford’s added-time free kick fizzed just over the bar it meant a seventh defeat in 10 World Cup quarterfinals and another ‘four years of hurt’ to tack on since their solitary triumph in 1966.

“We were here to try to win the tournament and we believed we could and I think that we showed with that performance tonight against the reigning champions that we’ve got a team that could have done that,” said coach Gareth Southgate.

“It’s fine margins and things at both ends that have ended up deciding the game, but I think the way they’ve progressed as a group throughout this tournament has been fantastic.” – Rappler.com

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