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World champions France edge ahead of England to reach semi-finals as Harry Kane misses penalty

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World Cup holders France remain on course in defending their title after beating England 2-1 to reach the semi-finals of Qatar 2022.

Aurélien Tchouaméni gave France the lead in the first half, his powerful shot setting fire to the Al Bayt stadium on Saturday.

England grew in the game and team captain Harry Kane converted forcefully from the penalty spot to draw level with the 2018 semi-finalists. The goal was his 53rd for his country, putting it at tied with Wayne Rooney as England’s all-time leading goalscorer.

With just over 10 minutes remaining, Olivier Giroud’s header put the defending champions ahead again, Kane taking a late penalty as France were able to hold on to victory.

France will face Morocco in the semi-finals on Wednesday after beating Portugal earlier in the day to become the first African side to reach this stage of the World Cup.

The French victory saw Didier Deschamps’ side become the first defending champions to progress beyond the quarter-finals this century.

It was a match between two of the final four teams in the 2018 World Cup, with both nations considered heavyweights to win the Qatar 2022 title.

And even in the early exchanges, the magnitude of the moment was evident, as both teams tested each other.

The first real chance of the game came just after the 10th minute, when Giroud headed a cross straight into the grateful arms of Jordan Pickford in the England goal.

The French breakthrough was not without controversy.

England winger Bukayo Saka was left on the ground after a tackle from France defender Dayot Upamecano, although Brazilian referee Wilton Sampaio brushed off England’s protests for a foul.

And, after a quick counter-attack involving Kylian Mbappé, England were penalized with a strike from Tchouaméni – his first World Cup goal – from outside the box tucked into the top corner to give advantage to France.

Minutes later, the England players again begged Sampaio for a decision in their favor after Upamecano and Kane tangled their legs at the edge of the French penalty area.

After brief deliberation with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), these pleas were dismissed and play continued.

Chances were scarce in the rest of the first half, with Kane coming closest, his close-range shot saved by Tottenham Hotspur team-mate Hugo Lloris in the France goal.

Immediately after the second half, England came out strong, with Jude Bellingham’s powerful effort from the edge of the box knocked down by Lloris.

The pressure finally died down as Saka was fouled by Tchouaméni and the referee pointed to the penalty spot, giving England the perfect chance to equalise.

Kane capitalized on it emphatically, powering the ball into the corner of France’s goal, becoming England’s top scorer alongside former Manchester United striker Rooney.

Kane celebrates after scoring for England against France.

Almost immediately after the restart, France almost regained the lead, but Adrien Rabiot’s first effort from the edge of the box was repelled by Pickford.

England looked the most likely to score, with a Harry Maguire header eyeing the post as Gareth Southgate’s side increased the pressure.

Against the run of play, France regained the lead thanks to their all-time top scorer, Giroud heading home his fourth goal of the tournament to restore the advantage to France just over 10 minutes from the end.

England had a golden chance to equalize a second time after Theo Hernández was found guilty of fouling Mason Mount, with Sampaio awarding a second penalty after reviewing the incident with the help of VAR .

This time, however, Kane launched his effort over the bar.

Despite constant pressure, England failed to equalize late on, with Marcus Rashford’s free-kick in the dying moments of the game landing on the roof of the net.

And, at the referee’s final whistle, the French players gathered to celebrate as Kane collapsed in despair.

England manager Gareth Southgate said his side’s performance “deserved better” but “at the end of the day the goals are decisive”.

“I told the players I didn’t think they could give more,” Southgate told ITV. “Nice margins decided the game, the way we have progressed in this tournament has been excellent.

“France know they’ve been in a hell of a game. We win together and we lose together. We conceded a few goals and missed a few chances. We wouldn’t be here without the goals that (Kane) scored for us .

Southgate consoles Kane after England's loss to France.

Asked after the final whistle if the defeat made England feel like they had missed an opportunity to progress at Qatar 2022, England midfielder Jordan Henderson told ITV: “Probably yes, because that we felt really good, the performances were really good.

“Concentration and hunger were good every day, but unfortunately it wasn’t our night. France have to be given credit, they are a good team, but I always felt they were there for us. win tonight.

Henderson added: “Right after the game, it’s hard to find the right words. I thought we gave it our all in the game.

“You know, disappointed to make a – zero, but I thought about the character and the mentality to continue in the second half and find the equaliser… We gave it our all and unfortunately it wasn’t our evening.”

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