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France beats its European rival England to advance to the World Cup semifinals

France forward Kylian Mbappe (#10) fights for the ball with England defender Kyle Walker during the World Cup quarterfinal match between England and France at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar on December 10, 2022.
Paul Ellis
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AFP via Getty Images
France forward Kylian Mbappe (#10) fights for the ball with England defender Kyle Walker during the World Cup quarterfinal match between England and France at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar on December 10, 2022.

France is heading back to the World Cup semifinals in back-to-back tournaments after a thrilling and nerve-wracking 2-1 quarterfinal victory over England.

It was a battle of the titans. Both teams made the semifinals of the last World Cup in Russia four years ago. France is the defending champion and had sparkled in Qatar behind a bevy of stars including Kylian Mbappé who leads the tournament with five goals (he was mostly silenced in this contest).

It was France which scored first. In the 17th minute, Antoine Griezmann (playing in his 72nd straight game) passed to Aurélien Tchouaméni who delivered a blistering strike from far outside the box to silence England 1-0.

England's super striker and team captain Harry Kane leveled the game at 1-1 in the 54th minute with a penalty kick strike. It was his 53rd goal for England - tying him with Wayne Rooney as the top all-time scorers for their country.

France forward Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring his team's second goal during their World Cup quarterfinal match against England.
Gabriel Bouys / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
France forward Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring his team's second goal during their World Cup quarterfinal match against England.

France bounced back in the 78th minute. Griezmann sent another pass into the box and Olivier Giroud soared up to deliver a header beyond the outstretched arms of the English keeper. The goal adds to Giroud's all-time scoring lead for France.

In the 84th minute, England missed a golden chance to even the game again. Harry Kane lined up for his second penalty kick of the game - but this time he struck it high above the cross bar.

England controlled possession for the entire game. They had more passes, more crosses and twice as many shots. But it mattered not for France. No defending world champions had gone beyond the quarterfinals this century until today.

The road for France won't get any easier. The French play Morocco in Wednesday's semifinal. Morocco has mowed down European opponents this tournament and is the first African team to play in a World Cup semifinal.

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Harry Kane of England reacts after missing a penalty against Hugo Lloris of France during the World Cup quarterfinal match between England and France.
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Getty Images
Harry Kane of England reacts after missing a penalty against Hugo Lloris of France during the World Cup quarterfinal match between England and France.

As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.