(Corrects score in lede)
Al Khor, Qatar, Dec 10 (EFE).- Defending champions France are two victories away from back-to-back World Cup wins after defeating England 2-1 here Saturday to book their spot in the final four at Qatar 2022.
The Three Lions had nearly 60 percent possession and outshot Les Bleus 16-8, but France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris made six saves and the usually reliable Harry Kane – who converted a penalty early in the second half – missed on another chance from the spot inside the last 10 minutes of regulation.
Despite defensive lapses and an off night for top striker Kylian Mbappe, the French kept alive their quest to become the first side to win consecutive World Cups since Brazil did it in 1958 and 1962.
Olivier Giroud forced a routine stop from England keeper Jordan Pickford before Real Madrid’s Aurelien Tchouameni put Les Bleus ahead in the 17th minute with help from Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, who became France’s all-time leader in assists.
England created chances, but Lloris held them at bay until Tchouameni fouled Bukayo Saka in the box in the 52nd minute and the referee pointed to the spot, allowing Kane to level the score and match Wayne Rooney with 53 goals for the Three Lions.
The Tottenham Hotspur and England captain also set a new mark for penalties converted in the World Cup with his fourth successful try.
The equalizer was followed by a stretch of end-to-end action with chances for both sides. Pickford turned aside a shot from Adrien Rabiot and Lloris smothered a strike by Spurs teammate Kane.
Pickford handled an attempt from Giroud in the 77th minute, but the 36-year-old striker beat the Everton man seconds later, getting his head to a tremendous ball into the box from Griezmann.
Giroud’s record-extending 53rd international goal restored the lead for France, but a clumsy foul by Theo Hernandez against late sub Mason Mount led – after a VAR review – to a second penalty for England in the 83rd minute.
Kane stepped to the spot and sent the ball high over the cross-bar, yet the Three Lions would get one last chance.
In the 10th minute of stoppage time, Harry Maguire was tripped just outside the area and England were awarded a free kick in a promising position.
Marcus Rashford – who posted a double against Wales in the group stage – got his strike over the wall but it failed to dip below the cross-bar for the equalizer. EFE lmp/dr