The stars in an Arabian night had seemed to align for Harry Kane. The England skipper had the chance to become England’s outright record goalscorer while at the same time keeping his country - trailing 2-1, with seven minutes left - in the World Cup.
Having already expertly despatched one penalty to draw England level shortly after half-time, the odds were firmly in his favour against Tottenham Hotspur clubmate Hugo Lloris when the pair faced each other again.
Kane seemed to be already reading the next morning’s headlines and he forgot the basics. Hit the target? He wasn’t even close. Think Chris Waddle against West Germany on a sweltering night in Turin in 1990.
These are very difference circumstances this time around but penalties remain England’s Achilles’ heel. The decorations are up, snow is on the ground and Gareth Southgate’s side are on their way home before the Christmas cards.
A first half cracker from Real Madrid midfielder Aurelian Tchouameni had given France the lead after 17 minutes on an intense night as two European powerhouses locked horns in the desert.
It was impossible to tear one’s eyes from the game. It see-sawed this way and that way and England even had another chance to save their World Cup dream right at the end. Substitute Marcus Rashford’s free kick in the 100th minute - after eight minutes had been added on - landed on the roof of the net.
It was impossible not to sympathise with the tearful Kane as he considered what might have been. France have their own record goalscorer to thank for what proved the winning goal. Olivier Giroud is now 36 years old and is still deciding football matches as this rarefied level.
His header with 12 minutes stands as the decisive moment in terms of the scoreline but so much was still to happen. Kane was consoled by Lloris at the end in a poignant scene.
France have now booked a date with Morocco back in the same Al Bayt stadium where England played three of their five games in Qatar. This was France’s first visit to the stadium.
Knowing the territory was a slim advantage and one England were unable to benefit from. A more substantial aid was being granted two penalties although England were still arguing that they should have had another one.
Kane had what looked like a decent claim after 25 minutes. It wasn’t given. Not by referee Wilton Sampaio and not by the VAR team after a check. France defender Dayot Upamecano found himself the wrong side of the England striker and he clumsily kicked Kane’s calf after a tussle that may or may not have started outside the penalty area.
Upamecano was also involved in an incident with Bukayo Saka in the run up to France’s goal. He upended the Arsenal player near the touchline deep in his own half and with the England bench still claiming a foul France swept upfield and scored. Kylian Mbappe darted inside while occupying three England markers and France took full advantage of the overload with Antoine Griezmann laying the ball off for Tchouameni, who was 25 yards – at least – from goal. His strike was always bending away from Jordan Pickford into the corner of the net. It was lent an extra unsavable quality by having flashed through Jude Bellingham’s legs, meaning Pickford saw it late.
All the attention was on Mbappe, the outstanding player of the tournament so far. Yes, he was always dangerous and indeed was heavily involved in Tchouameni’s opener. However, the damage was done elsewhere. He was almost used as a decoy by France in the opening minutes as they probed down the right via a combination of Ousmane Dembele and Griezmann.
Once again, Bellingham and Saka were England’s best players while Phil Foden helped inspire their second half recovery. Kane had looked to be on song too when converting a second half penalty after Tchouameni blotted his copybook by tripping the lively Saka in the box.
Kane breathed deeply and had to compose himself for a second time after re-positioning the ball on the spot. He then blasted it high to Lloris's right. It put Kane level with Wayne Rooney as England’s record goalscorer and gave no clue to the player’s later agony.
England’s next goal seemed vital in terms of their World Cup hopes and they didn’t care who scored it. A Harry Maguire header shaved the post after 70 minutes.
A nation’s top scorer did get onto the scoresheet next, but it was not Kane. Giroud has recently been installed as France’s record marksman and he scored a 53rd for his county with 12 minutes left of regulation time when finding room between John Stones and Maguire to head in the excellent Griezmann’s brilliant cross from the left. The ball seemed to strike Maguire’s shoulder in what was an extra sickening detail for England.
But it was not as galling as what happened shortly afterwards. Southgate’s side again responded well to a setback. Mason Mount had only just come on as a replacement for Jordan Henderson and his first real involvement was to be shoved in the back by Theo Hernandez in what was an especially clumsy challenge by the AC Milan defender.
Referee Sampaio was invited to have another look after initially waving play on. That he would return with good news for England seemed inevitable. But the cheers from their fans turned to stunned silence when Kane, their talisman, cleared the bar by a couple of yards with his effort from the spot.
It was one of the worst penalties in a World Cup where hitting the net from 12 yards has been a problem. It certainly wasn't the way Kane, winner of the Golden Boot in Russia four years ago, had hoped to distinguish himself at these finals.