CNN — France is on track to defend its World Cup title after defeating England 2-1 to reach the semifinals in Qatar 2022.

France took the lead in the first half thanks to Aurélien Tchouaméni’s powerful shot at the Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday.

Morocco’s Youssef En-Nesyri celebrates after scoring the team’s first goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 quarter final match between Morocco and Portugal on December 10, 2022 at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
With a historic victory over Portugal, Morocco becomes the first African team to reach the World Cup semifinals.
England grew into the game, and captain Harry Kane converted from the penalty spot to tie the 2018 semifinalists. His 53rd goal for his country brought him level with Wayne Rooney as England’s all-time leading scorer.

With just over 10 minutes remaining, Olivier Giroud’s header gave France the lead again, and Kane converted a late penalty as France held on to victory.

France will face Morocco in the World Cup semifinals on Wednesday after defeating Portugal earlier in the day to become the first African team to reach this stage.

The French win makes Didier Deschamps’ team the first defending champion to advance past the quarterfinals this century.

France’s performance, according to Giroud, was “amazing.”

“We knew how to be dangerous at the end of the game on our last chances.” “I knew I’d get another chance, and Grizi gave me a great pass,” Giroud said on the French Football Federation’s website, referring to Antoine Griezmann, who set up France’s winning goal with a superb cross.

“Tonight was a fantastic match; we know the talent of this young English generation; we played a very solid match; we tried to be aggressive in our counterattacks.”

After scoring France’s second goal against England, Giroud celebrates.
After scoring France’s second goal against England, Giroud celebrates.
Getty Images/Catherine Ivill Getty Images/Europe
A titanic clash
It was a match between two of the World Cup’s final four teams, with both nations regarded as heavyweight contenders for the Qatar 2022 title.

Even in the early exchanges, the gravity of the situation was clear, as the two teams tested each other.

The first real chance of the game came just after the 10-minute mark, when Giroud directed a cross straight into the grateful arms of England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

The French breakthrough was not without controversy.

England winger Bukayo Saka was left on the ground following a tackle by France defender Dayot Upamecano, but Brazilian referee Wilton Sampaio turned down English protests claiming a foul.

After a quick counterattack involving Kylian Mbappé, England was punished as Tchouaméni’s bullet strike from outside the box nestled in the bottom corner to give France the lead.

After Upamecano and Kane tangled legs on the edge of the French penalty box, England players pleaded with Sampaio for a decision in their favor.

Those appeals were dismissed after a brief discussion with the video assistant referee (VAR), and the game resumed.

Chances were scarce in the second half, with Kane coming closest, his close-range shot saved by Tottenham Hotspur teammate Hugo Lloris in the France goal.

England came out firing immediately after the break, with Lloris tipping over Jude Bellingham’s powerful effort from the edge of the box.

The pressure eventually paid off when Saka was fouled by Tchouaméni and the referee pointed to the penalty spot, giving England the chance to tie the game.

Kane capitalized, powering the ball into the corner of the France goal, becoming England’s joint top scorer alongside former Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney.

Kane celebrates after scoring against France for England.
Kane celebrates after scoring against France for England.
Getty Images/Julian Finney
Almost immediately after the restart, France nearly reclaimed the lead, but Pickford saved Adrien Rabiot’s first-time effort from the edge of the box.

England looked the most likely to score, with Harry Maguire’s header glancing off the post as Gareth Southgate’s side increased the pressure.

Against the odds, France retook the lead through its all-time leading scorer, Giroud, who headed home his fourth goal of the tournament with just over 10 minutes remaining.

England had a golden opportunity to tie the game again after Theo Hernández was adjudged to have fouled Mason Mount, with Sampaio awarding a second penalty after reviewing the incident with the assistance of VAR.

Kane, on the other hand, blazed his effort over the bar this time.

England was unable to find a late equalizer despite consistent pressure, with Marcus Rashford’s freekick in the game’s final moments landing on the roof of the net.

As the referee blew the final whistle, the French players huddled in a celebratory huddle, while Kane sank to his haunches in desperation.

England manager Gareth Southgate stated that his team “deserved better,” but that “in the end, goals are decisive.”

“I told the players I didn’t think they could give any more,” Southgate said, according to ITV. “The game was decided by fine margins, and the way we’ve progressed in this tournament has been excellent.”

“France understands they’ve been in a hell of a game.” We both win and lose together. We’ve given up a couple of goals and missed a few chances. We wouldn’t be here if (Kane) hadn’t scored the goals for us.”

Southgate consoles Kane following England’s loss to France.
Southgate consoles Kane following England’s loss to France.
Getty Images/Richard Heathcote Getty Images/Europe
When asked if the defeat felt like England had squandered a chance to advance to Qatar 2022, England midfielder Jordan Henderson told ITV: “Probably yeah, because we felt really good, performances were really good.”

“Every day, the focus and hunger were excellent, but it wasn’t our night.” You have to give France credit; they’re a good team, but I still felt it was possible for us to win tonight.”

“It’s difficult to find the right words right after the game,” Henderson added. I thought we gave it our all in the game.