France eked out a dramatic 2-1 victory over England in a blockbuster 2022 World Cup quarter-final today.
Les Bleus came flying out of the traps, assuming control of possession and applying high pressure on the Three Lions’ backline in pursuit of an early goal.
Didier Deschamps’ side first came knocking on the door through AC Milan marquee striker Olivier Giroud. The former Arsenal and Chelsea marksman flicked Ousmane Dembele’s cross straight into the welcoming arms of Jordan Pickford.
However, there was no saving from Aurelien Tchouameni’s long-range screamer only moments later. The Real Madrid midfielder unleashed a thunderbolt from the range into the bottom right corner to fire France 1-0 up.
After taking the lead, the reigning world champions immediately went into retreat, dropping back to defend a slender lead. England saw the opportunity to re-establish control of the middle of the park and seized it.
Having recovered possession midway through the first half, Gareth Southgate’s team ventured forward in numbers, looking to restore parity before half-time.
Who else but Harry Kane to find himself in the first presentable opportunity for the Three Lions? The Tottenham Hotspur skipper fended off Dayot Upamecano and tried to slot it past his club teammate Hugo Lloris from an acute angle.
Unfortunately for Kane, Lloris thwarted his attempt from point-blank with a diving save before pulling off another stunning stop to deny his thunderous effort from mid-range.
France gladly surrendered the ball to England and waited for their opportunities to come on the counters, yet they failed to make anything worthy of mention in the remainder of the first half.
Deschamps’ cowardly approach backfired on France early in the second half. Bukayo Saka cut inside from the right wing, with Tchouameni taking him down in the box for a penalty.
Kane made no mistake from the spot, sending Lloris the wrong way to draw England level in the 54th minute. It was a wake-up call for Les Bleus, who almost replied instantaneously through Adrien Rabiot.
The Juventus box-to-box midfielder latched on the ball first time and forced Pickford to make a diving save to block his powerful long-range cracker.
The action was back and forth, with both teams pushing forward in numbers when the opportunity was right.
However, England found themselves on the receiving end of such circumstances as Giroud headed home Antoine Griezmann’s inch-perfect cross in the 78th minute.
France’s celebrations were short-lived. Theo Hernandez made a silly challenge on second-half substitute Mason Mount to send Kane to the spot again.
Unfortunately for the Three Lions talisman, he skied the ball from the spot in the 84th minute to send England packing.
Les Bleus will take on Morocco in the semi-finals, while England must settle for another early exit at major tournaments.
Jordan Pickford (7/10) – Couldn’t do anything for both goals but pulled off a few vital stops in the second half.
Kyle Walker (7/10) – Had Kylian Mbappe in his back pocket for most of the game. It came at the expense of his attacking aspirations.
John Stones (6/10) – Outmuscled by Giroud one too many times. Not one of his best nights.
Harry Maguire (7/10) – Erik ten Hag may consider reincorporating him into Manchester United’s line-up. All jokes aside, he was an aerial threat and barely put his foot wrong.
Luke Shaw (7/10) – Made light work of keeping Ousmane Dembele quiet. Delivered several dangerous crosses from the left-hand side.
Declan Rice (7/10) – Arguably England’s best midfielder tonight. Made numerous crucial interceptions and kept the ball moving around with pinpoint precision.
Jude Bellingham (6/10) – Unlike Rice, he flopped at Al Bayt Stadium. Often pushed around by Tchouameni, he failed to give his side a foothold in the attacking third.
Jordan Henderson (6/10) – Clueless with the ball at his feet. It only made his well-documented lack of pace visible.
Bukayo Saka (8/10) – It’s no wonder he’s been in the thick of Arsenal’s dream Premier League form. In addition to drawing a penalty, he was too hot to handle for his markers.
Phil Foden (5/10) – This was a game he would want to forget in a hurry. One of those for whom this game passed them by.
Harry Kane (7/10) – ‘From hero to zero’ is the phrase that probably best illustrates Kane’s evening. Could’ve and should’ve scored more tonight.
Mason Mount (6/10)
Raheem Sterling (4/10)
Marcus Rashford (NA/10)
Jack Grealish (NA/10)
Hugo Lloris (9/10) – What a night from the Spurs goalkeeper. Chipped in with a number of crucial stops to help Les Bleus weather the storm.
Jules Kounde (7/10) – Did well defensively to deal with Phil Foden’s pace and tricky feet but was nowhere to be seen on the opposition half despite playing as a right-back.
Raphael Varane (8/10) – Not even a long-term injury knocked him off his perch. Man Utd will be desperate for him to transfer this form to the Premier League.
Dayot Upamecano (6/10) – A shaky performance from the Bayern Munich man. Continuously troubled by Kane while too insecure with the ball at his feet.
Theo Hernandez (6/10) – His wayward challenge on Mason Mount could’ve cost France dearly. Too loose with his tackles on several occasions.
Aurelien Tchouameni (7/10) – Came close to following in the footsteps of Kane and ruining all the good he produced by giving away a silly penalty.
Adrien Rabiot (7/10) – An assured performance from the Juventus midfielder. Had plenty of freedom to push forwards yet opted to focus on breaking up England’s build-up play.
Antoine Griezmann (9/10) – Got plenty of joy as a makeshift playmaker and fashioned several decent opportunities for his teammates.
Ousmane Dembele (5/10) – Never managed to influence the play and can have no complaints about being subbed off. Should’ve left the game earlier.
Kylian Mbappe (6/10) – Not one of his most vibrant showings for sure. Still showed off his impressive dribbling ability on a few occasions.
Olivier Giroud (8/10) – A definition of a talismanic No 9. Had two chances and made one of them count to crash England out.
Kingsley Coman (NA/10)