England go out as Kane takes his place in the penalty pantheon of pain

Spurs striker scores one spot-kick but misses another, while Olivier Giroud proves the hero to edge France edge into the World Cup semi-final

ENGLAND 1 (Kane 54 pen) FRANCE 2 (Tchouameni 17, Giroud 78)

68,000 people at the Al Bayt Stadium watched Harry Kane put the ball down and many of them wondered why he didn’t just get on with it.

There are few more reliable penalty takers in the game than Kane, who had the chance to keep England alive in the last five of the World Cup, along with France, Morocco, Croatia and Argentina. But even the best penalty takers seldom have to take two in the same game, let alone against a goalkeeper they play with every week. It gave Kane something to think about.

Half an hour earlier, he had blasted a penalty to the left and Hugo Lloris had dived the wrong way. What was his Spurs team-mate going to do this time? There is one way to eliminate the goalkeeper from the equation, which is to hit the top corner. Kane decided to go high and hard. The shot made a hole in the sky.


The French players rejoiced with Lloris. Kylian Mbappé laughed in disbelief. Kane stuffed his collar into his mouth and ground his teeth like a distressed horse, his face seeming to turn as white as his shirt.

Within seconds of the miss the memes were already coming through. Kane’s head superimposed on Jonny Wilkinson in his trademark pre-penalty stance. Kane in a beauty contestant’s gown and a sash saying “Miss Penalty”.

They will never really stop. ITV’s commentator Sam Matterface responded to the miss by blurting out, with a typically crass touch: “They needed Gary Lineker, they got Chris Waddle!” It’s been 32 years and Waddle is still hearing about that penalty. There are people born since 1990 who only know him as the guy who missed that penalty. The stinking albatross these penalty misses dangle around your neck never rots fully away. The memers and Matterfaces never forget.

The second equaliser would have sent England to extra time feeling pretty good about themselves after outplaying France for long spells of this World Cup quarter-final. Their captain’s astonishing miss shattered them. There were six minutes still to play and eight minutes of injury time to follow, but aside from a late free kick, missed narrowly by Marcus Rashford, England created nothing.

The only spell of real superiority France had enjoyed was in the first quarter-hour. Their start was sharper and more confident than England’s. Ousmane Dembele had already fired a couple of dangerous crosses towards Olivier Giroud by the time Aurelien Tchouameni crashed in the opener from nearly 30 yards, the power of the shot from what was virtually a standing position taking Jordan Pickford by surprise.

Rather than press the initiative, France handed it to England and sat back to play on the counter-attack. This is the Didier Deschamps way: why should he change? Mbappé + space = victory is a reasonable calculation.

But France were lucky to get to half-time without conceding. Kane twice rolled Dayot Upamecano to break into the box. The first time Hugo Lloris saved at the near post. The second time Upamecano brought him down on the edge of the box, but VAR ruled the contact was outside the area.

The most amazing statistic tonight was that Upamecano, a chaotic presence at the heart of the French defence, finished the game with zero fouls. The credit for that is due to the Brazilian referee, Wilson Sampaio – a “let it flow” merchant whose style Premier League pundits would love.

The English did not love his “men, at it” approach tonight, as he seemed to ignore a series of French fouls, including an obvious one by Upamecano on Bukayo Saka which set off the move that eventually led to the French goal.

Saka kept going and 10 minutes into the second half he was the victim of a foul even Sampaio could not ignore, when Tchouameni chopped him down as he skated across the French box. Kane smashed in the penalty for 1-1.

Now you could feel the game slipping away from France. Kylian Mbappé had been a marginal figure, except for one exhilarating surge down the left when he burned Kyle Walker round the outside, but Olivier Giroud could not connect with his cut-back.

But the second goal would not come for England. Maguire headed just wide at a set-piece and Saka could not finish a low cross at the back post.

And then, with 12 minutes to go, France scored against the run of play. When Gareth Southgate saw Antoine Griezmann preparing to cross from way out on the sideline he probably thought he would be happy to see Griezmann hit crosses from there all day. But the French forward produced a brilliant delivery which dipped to the near post for Giroud to head past Pickford.

Southgate made his first substitutions: Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling for Jordan Henderson and Saka – the last a surprising choice since he had arguably been England’s best attacker. Five minutes later Theo Hernandez barged Mount over as he ran for a high ball into the box. Sampaio saw nothing wrong with it – just another admirable case of men, at it – but VAR directed his attention to the pitchside monitor, where he decided that it did warrant a penalty after all.

The England fans celebrated their redemption, as Kane stepped forward, and into history.

Afterwards, Southgate reassured the captain that nobody would hold it against him. “He’s got nothing to reproach himself for. We’re in the position we are as a team because of his leadership, because of his goals, over a long period of time...”

Southgate will take some time to consider whether he should stay on or step down as manager. He seemed pleased with how his team had performed. “We wanted to go toe-to-toe tonight, that was the way we wanted to approach the tournament. I don’t think we looked out of place. There were so many good things that they’ve done, and there’s so much to be excited about when you see the age of the players as well.”

Well, some of the players. Walker and Henderson are 32, Kane is 29. Even Jack Grealish is 27: will he be back in 2026?

At the end, while younger team-mates like Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham wept, Grealish walked around looking bemused. He’d said last week he hadn’t touched the Playstation he had packed for the camp, he was having too much fun just hanging out with the other England players. He didn’t touch the ball in this match either, as Southgate bizarrely waited until the 97th minute to send him on. At least the camp was fun. World Cup glory remains elusive, but he’ll always have Doha.

England: Pickford, Walker, Stones (Grealish 90), Maguire, Shaw, Henderson (Mount 79), Rice, Bellingham, Saka (Sterling 79), Kane, Foden (Rashford 85).

France: Lloris, Kounde, Varane, Upamecano, Theo Hernandez, Tchouameni, Rabiot, Dembele (Coman 79), Griezmann, Mbappe, Giroud.

Referee: Wilton Sampaio (Brazil).

Ken Early

Ken Early

Ken Early is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in soccer