France Tops England 2-1 in Thriller, Advances to World Cup Semifinal


The last remaining semifinal ticket has been booked.

France’s quest to repeat as World Cup champions continued after topping England 2-1 in a quarterfinal thriller.

Both Gareth Southgate and Didier Deschamps came out with unchanged starting XIs from their round of 16 wins. 

England kept its 4-3-3 shape with Phil Foden at left wing and Jordan Henderson in the right-hand box-to-box midfield role. France maintained its hybrid 4-2-3-1 lineup with Antoine Griezmann free roaming. 

As expected, England controlled the possession in the early stages with a 3-2-5 shape going against France’s 4-4-2 midblock with a passive press. In the 15th minute, right back Kyle Walker, who had the Kylian Mbappé matchup, exploited the right half space between Mbappé and left back Theo Hernández. But he didn’t cross the ball into the penalty box and Mbappé broke free on the counter.

The French superstar drew in three English defenders on the left flank before getting the ball out to the right, where Griezmann casually laid it off to Aurélien Tchouaméni for a stunning long-distance strike from outside the box in the 17th minute.

England ramped up the intensity from that point forward, with Harry Kane getting two good chances at French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, the two also being teammates at Tottenham in the English Premier League. Lloris managed to get two crucial saves to keep the score 1-0 at the interval.

The Three Lions kept the pressure on early in the second half when Jude Bellingham saw his right-footed half volley from just outside the box get tipped over by Lloris. 

Eventually it was the magic of Bukayo Saka and Bellingham on the right-hand side that created England’s opening goal. A slick one-two passing move between the two forced Tchouaméni into a dangerous tackle on Saka inside the box, and Harry Kane stepped up to the spot with a convincing penalty conversion past Lloris. 

France struggled to keep the ball with England’s press making Les Bleus uncomfortable. Mbappé couldn’t do much against the double teams the Three Lions would put on him, and England nearly took the lead the other way when Harry Maguire’s header off a Jordan Henderson free kick just curled away from the left near post. 

That bit Maguire just eight minutes later when Olivier Giroud beat him to a Griezmann cross for a headed goal in the 78th minute, giving France a 2-1 advantage. 

The pressure turned back to England to equalize again despite being the better side throughout, but Southgate subbing off Saka in the 79th minute for Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson for Mason Mount took away its best threats on the right-hand side.

But Mount won a pivotal penalty after Hernández threw a reckless elbow into his back inside the box, and Kane had a chance to make it two penalty goals in one game. However, he sailed this one over the crossbar, and the Three Lions didn’t have any other key chances to tie after Marcus Rashford’s late free kick just sailed over the right far post.

Most of the statistics – shots, shots on target, possession, passes, pass accuracy, expected goals – went England’s way, but not optimizing the momentum to find the second goal after Kane’s goal before Giroud did cost the side. 

France is now advancing to its seventh World Cup semifinal of all time, and the second time it has done so in consecutive tournaments (1982/1986).

For Les Bleus to reach the final, they’ll have to beat Morocco, the team of destiny, in the semifinal on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. ET, 11 a.m. PT.

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