France beat England 2-1 in a highly-entertaining quarterfinal at the Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar on Saturday. The defending champions thus kept their hopes of defending their title alive. The Les Bleus will play Morocco in the semifinal on Wednesday.
We will now take a look at two things that stood out in the match.
France scored first, but England then put a lot of pressure on their defense
France started the match with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Antoine Griezmann starting as the No. 10 and Tchouameni and Adrien Rabiot playing as the two defensive midfielders. England, meanwhile, played with a 4-3-3- with Kane, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden upfront.
As the match progressed, England’s formation often became a 3-5-2 with Kyle Walker staying back as the third central defender to tackle the threat of Kylian Mbappe, Jordan Henderson playing as the right wing-back and Saka shifting inside to play as an attacking midfielder at times. Phil Foden started as the left winger, but switched inside to join Kane as the first half progressed.
However, it was the French players who kept demonstrating their consummate ball-skills by moving the ball around briskly and without much trouble. England attacked through the left flank and the inside-left channel a lot initially through Jude Bellingham, Luke Shaw and Foden, but Jules Kounde stayed back to weather the storm and was ably helped by Tchouameni.
France got their first goal from a brisk counter-attack. A long ball was played to Mbappe, who got some space for a change and ran inside before playing the ball across to Ousmane Dembele on the right flank. Dembele played the ball to Griezmann, who played it quickly to Tchouameni, who then finished with a perfectly-placed right-footed shot from 25 yards out past a diving Jordan Pickford.
England then changed their tactic and started launching more attacks through the right and inside-right channel. Saka kept moving inside more frequently and Kane started dropping down to collect the ball and then make darting runs.
Kane had a fascinating duel with Dayot Upamecano and also managed to get past the latter on a couple of occasions, but Hugo Lloris averted the danger. Rabiot did not do enough defensively to give cover to Upamecano and the offensive-minded Theo Hernandez could not enforce things often as England piled on the pressure.
England equalized, but France became aggressive again to regain the lead
England began the second half in an aggressive fashion, too, as France, for all their quality, became a bit too subdued in their approach to allow the English to take the upper hand. It was Saka who became instrumental in giving the English a change to equalize.
Saka’s probing run through the inside-right channel helped him dodge past a French player, but he was then tripped by Tchouameni in the latter’s bid to stop him. Kane scored from the resultant penalty as England were rewarded for their relentless pressure. The 29-year-old Tottenham Hotspur striker thus matched Wayne Rooney’s record by becoming the joint-highest goal-scorer for England with 53 goals.
France were shaken up by the equalizer and started attacking more often after. Their trio of Griezmann, Mbappe and Giroud kept showing their undeniable quality as the French played with a high defensive line.
Soon, the effects seen as Giroud’s volley from close range was saved by Pickford. France started sending crosses into the English penalty box and were not to be denied for long.
Griezmann, who kept roaming all over the pitch, collected the ball on the left flank and delivered an inch-perfect cross into the penalty box , which was perfectly met by Giroud and the latter’s header found its way into the net.
It was the 53rd international goal for the 36-year-old Giroud. However, there was more drama to come as England replaced Henderson with Mason Mount and, somewhat inexplicably, Saka with Raheem Sterling.
A long ball was played in the direction of Mount inside the French penalty box, but Theo Hernandez pushed him unnecessarily, when the former was hardly in a goal-scoring position and the latter also had him well-covered.
Still, Kane failed to score from the spot, as he blasted the ball over the bar and Lloris breathed a sigh of relief, along with the rest of the French team. France then held on to the lead to move into the final four.