Kids, that’s what a penalty shoot out victory at a major tournament looks like. England are into the quarter finals, their first in twelve years, they did it the hard way but ultimately not many will care.
This was by far England’s toughest test so far. Colombia were dogged, aggressive and just plain nasty throughout. It got them into extra time though, as they kept themselves in the game. For England, this will surely be a huge lesson learnt as they get ready for Sweden in the last eight.
England were closer than a Premier League referee to Sir Alex Ferguson. One nil up in stoppage time with a corner to defend. Cue Yerry Mina’s towering header and wild celebrations from Colombia as they took England to extra-time in Moscow.
It had all been going quite well up to that point. The young England side were battling and looked to have done it with a mature display.
They were up against an unsavoury performance from Colombia, as the South American side snap, crackled and rolled their way through ninety minutes. And that was when they weren’t scuffing penalty spots, surrounding referees and getting booked.
It was dire stuff indeed from them and if that’s how their idea of football, then good riddance.
A word on Harry Kane though. The captain was the coolest man in Moscow as he dispatched his 57th minute penalty. He is truly growing in stature and with him, there is a chance he could get England there.
Their will be rightful jubilation following this not insignificant win. However this was not a vintage performance by England.
For the third time in three games now, Southgate’s men huffed and puffed through a game without ever looking like they could click into gear.
Sterling and Ali were ineffective, while Lingard looked rushed with his final ball. Credit though must go to this young side for navigating the minefield of play acting and snide antics by Colombia. They were largely unruffled even if their football was affected.
Tonight though there was the repeat of the pattern of a bright opening followed by a long lull as toil replaced zip and fluidity. It’s a talented bunch over there, no doubt, but they will need to do more against better teams if they are to have any real chance of making the final, let alone win it.
Some of the stats going into this World Cup have been staggering. Another one emerged as the two teams had to settle for pens; no English ‘keeper since Seaman has saved a penalty in a knockout tournament. No pressure on Jordan then.
It was wonderful to see Pickford make the save from Bacca. His world class save in injury time was almost forgotten by Mina’s header on ninety-three minutes. However the Everton Keeper stood his ground as England came from behind in the shoot out. Dier duly dispatched the winning pen to send England through.
It’s a win that will breed huge confidence in Southgate’s squad. The manager will now have his eyes on Sweden. It’s a winnable tie to say the least. Win that, and Southgate will be the first man to lead England to a Semi final in this tournament since Sir Bobby Robson. A tantalising prospect for everyone.