Harry Kane crouched petrified on the lawn, only a few meters away France's defending champions were jumping in a circle celebrating. England's captain had converted a penalty in the 1: 2 (0: 1) in the last World Cup quarterfinals against the world champion (54th) - and then awarded one (84th).
Coach Gareth Southgate, who himself once missed a penalty for the Three Lions, tried to offer some comfort immediately after the final whistle at Al-Bait Stadium in Al-Khour. It didn't help much: England's title trauma lasted at least another year and a half.
Aurélien Tchouaméni (17) and Olivier Giroud (78) scored in front of 68,895 spectators for Didier Deschamps' Équipe Tricolore, who play against Morocco for the final on Wednesday. France is following in the footsteps of the legendary Brazilian selection, which was the last team to repeat the World Cup triumph directly in 1962.
"It's extraordinary. We worked extremely well. It reminded me of the game against Belgium in 2018. In the end we were the lucky ones. That's great for our team," said match winner Giroud and was relieved after the victory at the summit: " It was big. We knew what this generation of young English talent was capable of. We had the right mentality. It goes as far as it can go. I'm very proud of this team."
Deschamps with respect to Morocco
Now Morocco is waiting as the last hurdle before the final. "Morocco also deserves respect. They're not a real surprise, they really have what it takes," said Deschamps. Maybe France got a bit lucky. "We're going to enjoy it for now."
England, on the other hand, left earlier than they wanted after losing the European Championship final in Wembley last year. The Three Lions won their last title in a major tournament in 1966 in the final against Germany, which was still broadcast in black and white. "It's hard to find the right words. It could have gone either way. We had the mental strength. We gave everything. It wasn't enough," said Liverpool star Jordan Henderson, adding, looking at Kane, "How many did he score for us? How many penalties? How many goals? He's a world-class striker. I can't imagine our team without him."
The British fans were in the majority in the arena modeled on a desert tent. At least the "Come on, England" could be heard much louder than "Allez, les Bleus". The two heads of government Emmanuel Macron and Rishi Sunak had a little joking banter on Twitter before the game about who would now move into the semifinals.
Mbappé initiates the opening goal
It didn't look like England in the early stages. Gareth Southgate's selection acted without ideas in the game structure - and made an unusual number of mistakes. France's speed storm took advantage of this mercilessly.
The unstoppable Kylian Mbappé changed sides with the ball at his foot and thus initiated the lead. Tchouaméni scored from a good 25 meters after a pass by Antoine Griezmann, the ball rocketed to 108 km/h. For the first time at this World Cup, England were behind and now Kane came along.
The Tottenham Hotspur striker tested his club-mate Hugo Lloris in the French goal in the 21st and 29th minutes and was now more present. The Three Lions' game no longer seemed quite as static, and Jude Bellingham also had more ball actions. The English had briefly hoped for a penalty when a duel between Bayern professional Dayot Upamecano and Kane on the edge of the penalty area was checked via video evidence. Referee Wilton Sampaio (Brazil) stopped the game for a long time, but there was no penalty.
In this phase of the duel between the two "world-class players" (Southgate), Mbappé fell a little short of Kane. His shot in the 40th minute went well over the English goal. But that didn't have to mean anything for the 23-year-old. According to his coach Deschamps, the Paris striker was not completely convincing against Poland in the round of 16 - but still scored two goals.
Maguire and Saka miss great chances
The half-time deficit was a bad omen in the exciting history of English football: the Three Lions have never won a World Cup game by being behind at half-time. Bellingham's attempt to counter that was deflected over the goal by Lloris shortly after the restart (47'). But then there was a penalty for England. Tchouaméni knocked Bukayo Saka off his feet in the box and Kane took the opportunity in his 11th World Cup appearance as England captain. The 29-year-old drew level with record scorer Wayne Rooney with his 53rd England goal.
The Brits got better as a result and would have deserved the second goal in the middle of the second half. Harry Maguire (70th) and Saka (71st) missed promising opportunities. Giroud punished the failure to convert chances at the beginning of the final phase: England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was able to defuse the 36-year-old's first attempt (77'), but he was powerless in the second attempt with a header.
Theo Hernández's boisterous defense, again checked by the video assistant, led to the second penalty. Kane settled the ball calmly - and shot well over it. When Marcus Rashford fired a free-kick just over the goal in added time, England was over.