Kane’s Miss Will Be Another Ghost to Haunt England

AL KHOR, Qatar — Harry Kane held his head in his hands, as if he was replaying the moment over and over again in his mind. England’s captain, the most prolific goal-scorer in its history, had been given a chance to rescue its World Cup campaign, and he had blown it, cruelly and spectacularly. All he wanted, in that moment, was to have his time again. He would not, in the end, be the only one.

There will, in the days to come, be plenty of recrimination as England picks over the bones of its exit. It will be of scant solace to Kane that he will certainly not be the only focus of the criticism; he may not even be the primary one. That honor, most likely, will fall to Wilton Sampaio, the Brazilian referee.

Mostly, though, there will be regret. France might have come into this game as a slight favorite, but the reigning champion was outplayed for vast stretches of the game, particularly after Aurélien Tchouámeni had given Didier Deschamps’s team an early lead with a shot from distance. After that France sat back, rested on its laurels, rode its luck.

That goal, at least in the English telling, was the first injustice. Replays seemed to suggest there had been a foul on Bukayo Saka at the very start of the move that led to Tchouámeni’s goal. A few minutes later, Harry Kane might have won a penalty, and certainly should have been awarded a free kick. England got neither.

That wrong, at least, would be righted early in the second half, with Kane converting from the spot after Tchouámeni had tripped Saka. It was no less than Southgate’s team deserved; having taken the lead, France slowly lost both urgency and impetus, finding it increasingly difficult to handle the brightness of Saka and Phil Foden.

France’s Olivier Giroud after he scored his team’s second goal to go ahead of England, 2-1.Credit…Gabriel Bouys/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

At that point, the wind seemed to be at England’s backs. France’s vaunted attacking line, spearheaded by Mbappé, had been peripheral to the game; the reigning champion was being overwhelmed in midfield. Deschamps seemed curiously reluctant to try to wrestle back control.

Naturally, then, France regained the lead when Giroud steered a fierce, whipped cross from Antoine Griezmann past a despairing Jordan Pickford. Within little more than a minute, it seemed to have thrown its advantage away again, Theo Hernández shoving Mason Mount to the floor in the penalty area and Sampaio, the referee, awarding a second penalty after consulting a replay.

Kane, once again, stepped up against Hugo Lloris, his teammate at Tottenham Hotspur. The psychological complexity of that particular dynamic may have played a role in what happened next: Kane ballooning the ball over the bar, Lloris punching the air, and France edging one step closer to becoming the first team in more than half a century to retain the World Cup.

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