As the dust settles on a memorable night in Russia earlier this week, Hal Walker looks back on a stoic England performance and picks out the five key points we learned about Southgate’s side.
England won their first ever World Cup penalty shootout to overcome Colombia, setting up a quarter-final encounter against Sweden. Gareth Southgate’s courageous side were initially denied a victory in normal time when Colombia’s Yerry Mina equalised in the closing minutes of stoppage time, cancelling out Harry Kane’s earlier penalty in a provocative and frenzied encounter.
Here are five things we learned from the game:
1) Concrete evidence of this “new England”Embed from Getty Images
This was the first time in 12 years an England team had won a World Cup knockout tie, but the manner in which Gareth Southgate’s resilient troops overcame adversity and incitement in the midst of a difficult encounter stood out. Despite feeling aggrieved that referee Mark Geiger deemed Wilmar Barrios’ deliberate flick of his head into Jordan Henderson’s chest and then chin worthy of only a yellow card, England retained their coolness and composure for the majority of the evening. Southgate’s side have endured a wealth of overly physical tactics and various forms of agitation from their opponents in this tournament, but England’s self-controlled and unperturbed mentality has hitherto served them well.
2) The penalty shootout curse has finally been laid to rest
The widely-known and barely concealed sense of dread surrounding penalty shootouts, deep-rooted from previous haunting failures were finally banished when Eric Dier’s deciding penalty flashed by David Ospina, silencing hostile hordes of Colombian fans who occupied the majority of the stands. It had all seemed so predictable when Jordan Henderson’s penalty was saved – but instead Jordan Pickford’s save from Carlos Bacca, before Mateus Uribe’s miss, set up Dier’s golden moment.
3) Pickford silences doubters
The Everton keeper deserved better after his outstanding save from Uribe’s late goal-bound effort than the concession of a corner prior to Colombia’s equaliser. However, the 24 year-old stopper was to be integral again, producing a crucial, strong left hand from Bacca’s spot kick that swung the shootout England’s way.
4) Kane steps up again
When England were in need of a leader and a calm head in a pressured situation, the Tottenham marksman was not about to go missing. Unfazed by being made to endure a three-minute delay and witnessing clear, patent attempts by the Colombian players to dig up and deface the penalty spot, he made no mistake in converting his 57th-minute penalty. His shootout effort was even more emphatic. Kane currently leads the race for the Golden Boot with six goals and has Romelu Lukaku as his nearest challenger with four.Embed from Getty Images
5) England suffer on set-pieces
Despite former praise heaped on Gareth Southgate for set-piece training evident in previous games, England appeared vulnerable in defending corners and free-kicks against an aggressive and vigorous Colombia side. Jose Pekerman’s outfit had also clearly been instructed and specifically coached on blocking- often using illegal methods- the penalty box runs from the likes of Kane, Harry Maguire and John Stones. Crucially, England’s defence switched off in late stages of stoppage time to allow Mina to climb highest to take the tie into extra time and give Colombia hope.
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