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England return from World Cup with another missed penalty | World Cup 2022

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The plague of missed penalties returned to haunt England last night as their World Cup dreams ended in familiar scenes of tears and shattered dreams.

At the final whistle, as the players collapsed onto the turf and hands covered their faces, the eternal memory was of Gareth Southgate comforting his captain Harry Kane. It was Kane who had the chance to equalize that thrilling quarter-final against France when, with England trailing 2-1, he came forward from 12 yards out.

But when it ignited, you could hear the howls of anguish reverberating all the way from Doha to London. The tears of these England players will soon fade. But the sting of this loss will surely linger.

“As you might expect, he’s very, very low, but he’s got nothing to be ashamed of,” Southgate said afterwards. “We are in the position we are in as a team because of his leadership and his goals.”

And, as if anticipating morning tabloid headlines, Southgate then added: “No recriminations, the players were brilliant and we win and lose as a team.”

What made his defeat even more painful was that this World Cup smelt of tantalizing possibilities. The England management team always believed that France would be their biggest block of glory here in Qatar. But they knew that if they won, they would face Morocco, who were down 300-1 heading into the tournament, in the semi-finals.

We are constantly told that there are no easy games at international level. But Southgate would have taken that before the tournament.

Olivier Giroud returns home winner of France.
Olivier Giroud returns home winner of France. Photography: Richard Sellers/Getty Images

In fact, there was so much here that England could be proud of as they took on the world champions for 90 minutes. They were bold, they were inventive. They moved forward in a style that shed their familiar conservatism.

And, at times, it seemed like all sorts of tantalizing possibilities opened up, especially after Kane’s penalty early in the second half leveled Aurélien Tchouaméni’s first crush.

But in the final 15 minutes of impossible tension, Oliver Giroud put France 2-1 ahead – then for Kane to miss a second penalty that would likely have sent the tie into extra time.

“The players know how far they’ve come,” admitted Southgate. “They know they pushed a top nation all the way. More ownership. More shots on goal. I am very proud of how they have been. But tonight we fell short. We felt we could win the tournament.

Ever since England’s lone World Cup triumph in 1966, their results in the Round of 16 have followed a simple, repeating formula: they lose to the first power they face. And it turned out. But there was no shame in this defeat.

Quick Guide

England World Cup quarter-finals knocked out

Spectacle

Defeat to France in Al Khor means England have lost seven World Cup quarter-finals, reaching all four finals only three times – in 1966, when they lifted the trophy, and in 1990 and 2018.

1954: 4-2 defeat against Uruguay Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney scored for England but the defending champions punished Gil Merrick’s goalkeeping errors in Switzerland

1958: 3-1 defeat against Brazil Pele’s absence gave England hope in Chile, but Garrincha’s two goals saw the eventual champions through.

1970: 3-2 defeat against West Germany Alf Ramsey’s side let slip a two-goal lead as Gerd Müller scored in extra time to end England’s title defense

1986: 2-1 defeat against Argentina Diego Maradona followed the ‘Hand of God’ with one of the greatest solo goals of all time as Argentina prevailed

2002: 2-1 defeat against Brazil Michael Owen fired England in front but Rivaldo’s leveler and Ronaldinho’s long-range lob turned things around

2006: defeat against Portugal on penalties after a 0-0 draw Wayne Rooney was sent off as England’s golden generation failed

2022: 2-1 defeat against France After missing the last eight in South Africa and Brazil, and overtaking in Russia, England suffer a seventh quarter-final outing against the defending champions.

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Questions had lingered over Southgate’s tactics in the biggest games, when the stakes are so high even a high roller in Vegas might blink. England had been 1-0 against Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, and again against Italy in the Euro 2020 final, only to concede ground and, ultimately, the game. Not this time.

It was a sign of Southgate’s confidence that he kept the same squad of players that beat Senegal in the last 16, lining up in a 4-3-3 formation. Initially, however, they were overly cautious and fell behind after 17 minutes. But the blow came soon enough to shake England out of their lethargy. And they responded beautifully.

There were signs before Kane finally equalized that England controlled the mid eight in that game, with French keeper Hugo Lloris having to fend off a deflected shot from Kane. And when, at the start of the second half, Tchouaméni dragged a leg and brought down Bukayo Saka, England were rightly level from the penalty spot.

The game opened up, became looser and more irregular. But as the game entered the final 15 minutes, France found a second wind. England were given ample warning of what was to come when Giroud shot Pickford from eight yards out when it looked easy to score. But moments later, the striker smashed what turned out to be the winner.

There had to be one more trick – and one more trick of the knife. Almost immediately, Lucas Hernandez burst into Mason Mount unnecessarily and VAR rightly ruled it a penalty. This time, however, Kane couldn’t keep his composure and jumped over the bar.

Harry Kane’s England record

French eyes are now on Morocco, whose manager, Walid Regragui, compared his side to Rocky Balboa after upsetting Portugal 1-0. This run here in Qatar is all the more remarkable as they were among the underdogs at the start of the tournament, while Regragui has only been in charge since August.

“I think we are becoming the team that everyone loves in this World Cup because we are showing the world that you can succeed even if you don’t have so much talent, so much quality, so much money,” did he declare.

Morocco’s journey here in Qatar is all the more remarkable as we were among the outsiders at the start of the tournament. However, the Atlas Lions have since topped a group that included Croatia and Belgium and then beat Spain and Portugal.

Along the way, he also created a strong sense of unity with an unusual tactic: by inviting the players’ mothers into the camp. “If you work hard enough and show that desire, that passion and that belief, you can succeed. It’s no miracle.

England, meanwhile, will have to pick up the pieces from another crushing defeat. It will be small consolation that they pushed the world champions all the way.

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