In the end, it was not all about . It was about penalties, of course it was.
Not five each this time. Just the two for England. One they scored, the other they missed. And that was it. Another glorious failure.
Defeat grasped from the jaws of, well, a draw. ’s side deserved more but got nothing. Unfortunately, it is the way with England these days.
But where the last and last year’s European Championship were self-inflicted from winning positions, this was all about England’s courage not yielding its reward.
After a nervous opening period had resulted in his team going 1-0 down to a fine Aurelien Tchouameni strike, rescued them once from the penalty spot. It was not a trick he could pull off twice.
Once Olivier Giroud had restored France’s lead with 12 minutes left, you felt there might be one more chance. Referee Wilton Pereira Sampaio was sent to the monitor by VAR to check and awarded a second spot-kick seven minutes from time for Theo Hernandez’s mindless shove on substitute Mason Mount.
If you had wanted anyone to keep you in the World Cup it was Kane, whose earlier goal had drawn him level with Wayne Rooney as England’s all-time record goalscorer.
But the skipper blasted over and Qatar 2022 merely faded to grey after that. France had been second-best for most of the night but in the moments that counted they had done enough. They are not the reigning world champions for nothing.
They sat back and they sat back, inviting England on. Kane got the opportunity. He will be the latest in a long line of England players forced to face up to a big penalty miss – Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho had it only last year in the Euro 2020 final against Italy.
England always find a way. They deserved so much more, responding brilliantly to going 1-0 down and dominating possession while creating the better chances. Bukayo Saka was a menace after the break.
But all the while England were playing well without scoring, the thought it only needed one France attack for England’s hopes to come crashing down nagged away. Giroud nudged them ahead but it could have been so different.
This would have made a great final and no doubt Didier Deschamps’ men would have found a way to win that too, Now France will quite possibly go on and win another title, despite not impressing tonight.
Mbappe was largely quiet after a few early moments of quality and penalties again came back to haunt England. Again, you can’t make this stuff up.
Remember Italia ’90? Euro 96? Last year? And so on.
England are out and again are the architects of their own exit. Seeing France celebrate such a mediocre performance was galling at the end. But the scoreline is all that matters, of course.
No shoot-out required. Just one heartbreaking miss. And just like that, it was all over.
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