Harry Kane after England vs France

World Cup 2022 quarter-final review: Three Lions crash out as Atlas Lions continue to roar

It was a devastating evening for the Three Lions in their quarter-final clash, as they narrowly lost to European neighbours France after a winner from Les Bleus’ all-time top scorer Olivier Giroud.

There was a shock in the second quarter-final of the day as Morroco beat one of the tournament favourites Portugal in a 1-0 win.

Here are our key takeaways for the four sides.

England vs France

Saturday night spelled the end of England’s long-awaited dream of returning to World Cup glory, a reverie that once again falls into a deep slumber until 2026.

France, the reigning champions, showcased anew the immeasurable benefit of one thing that this exuberant England squad does not yet possess, experience on the biggest stage.

The momentum ebbed and flowed throughout as it continuously shifted between the heavyweight sides.

Aurélien Tchouaméni’s early strike set the tone for Les Bleus, threatening to un-nerve a youthful England outfit.

However, the expected English fightback kicked into gear as Harry Kane’s record-equalling penalty capitalised on the mountain of momentum Gareth Southgate’s side held.

But as Harry Kane’s skied penalty followed Olivier Giroud’s match-winning header, we learnt that despite the three lions’ potential and dominance on the day, experience trumps all on the world stage. 

Besides an ungainly, ultimately futile, group stage loss to Tunisia, France had looked comfortable until Saturday’s quarter-final.

Hugo Lloris, receiving his record-143rd French cap, cited mental toughness and ruthlessness as the key differentials in overcoming the English.

These will be imperative qualities for Wednesday against a Moroccan side who have conceded just once in the tournament – a deflected own goal against Canada.

Among all the Kylian Mbappe-associated clamour, Antoine Griezmann shone in his deeper, creative role and will be indisputably crucial in penetrating the regimented Moroccan backline.

There is no questioning the gulf in quality between the two sides, and the experience from 2018 will be invaluable for the French.

But whether they can be as vindictively efficient as they were on Saturday, remains to be seen.

Portugal vs Morrocco

After defeating Portugal 1-0, Morocco became the first African country to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup, and the Atlas Lions showed no sign of stage fright at the Al Thumama Stadium as they completed another giant killing in the biggest game of their nation’s history. 

Youssef En-Nesyri was the match-winner, and although taken in style, his first-half header was a gift presented by Diogo Costa.

The Portugal goalkeeper was caught off his line, an error that condemned the Seleção to a quarterfinal exit and exposed an Achilles’ Heel, as they lead the tournament for most errors leading to a goal with three.

However, the match was rather an exhibit of the frightening counterattack and impenetrable defence of Walid Regragui’s side, which can defy the odds time and time again.

Morocco must once again rely on tried and trusted tactics to tackle another European giant standing in the way of history. 

The Atlas Lions have set up in a low block, relying on aggression and intensity to frustrate the opposition.

This passion defines them, with breakout star midfielder Sofyan Amrabat describing their secret as “the 22 players, how we defend, our fighting spirit”. 

Indeed, Walid Regragui has enticed the notoriously lazy pair of Hakim Ziyech and Sofiane Boufal to defend, but it is their undeniable quality that can give Morocco the platform to build the counter-attacks they thrive on.

However, with Nayef Aguerd, Noussair Mazraoui and Romain Saïss all possibly injured Morocco’s seemingly impregnable back-line has to face Mbappe and co without their defensive stalwarts.

For more of our World Cup content, click here.

Featured Image: BBC Sport YouTube screenshot

Related Articles