England progressed to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in dramatic fashion with a penalty shootout win against Colombia, winning 4-3 from the spot.
Jordan Pickford was the hero on the night, saving Carlos Bacca’s penalty before Eric Dier slotted home to ensure Gareth Southgate’s side progressed.
Without their star man in James Rodriguez, Colombia turned to the dark arts of the game, bundling Harry Kane to the ground from a corner resorting to lashing out at England’s players. The Spurs striker would make no mistake from the spot, dealing well with the pressure to hammer home and set England on their way.
A rash incident with Barrios and Jordan Henderson should’ve seen a dismissal too, with the Liverpool captain going to ground after Barrios appeared to headbutt him in the chest before making contact with his chin.
However, the Video Assistant Referee system deemed the incident only worthy of a yellow card – a real let off for the South American’s. An altercation with Raheem Sterling involving one of the Colombian coaches reflected the nature of the first-half – a heated forty-five minutes with tempers flaring.
For all Colombia’s struggles to break through and test Jordan Pickford in goal, they were much the better side in the second half. Piling on the pressure, they got their reward via a late equaliser right at the death to give themselves a glimmer of hope. A 93rd minute header from Yerry Mina set things up for an intriguing finish, with all the momentum suggesting a remarkable turnaround.
Yet, it was England who dug deep in the eventual penalty shootout, sending Falcao home after his first involvement in the competition while Rodriguez was pictured teary eyed and heartbroken post-match.
If there was one thing England supporters dreaded more than anything heading into Tuesday’s game, it was penalties. Winning just one out of seven penalty shoot-outs in major competitions, the Three Lions hardly have a scintillating track record from the spot.
This tale had a different end, though.
Captain Kane was ice cool from the spot once more, blasting the ball into the corner and beyond the reach of David Ospina before Marcus Rashford stepped up and valiantly dealt with the pressure despite his youthful age.
However, Jordan Henderson’s miss provided a heart in mouth moment for fans; the Liverpool man has been a standout performer for Southgate’s side, and didn’t deserve to cost England a quarter-final place.
Substitute Uribe – whose long range effort brought the corner that had levelled the game – hit the underside of the bar before Kieran Trippier easily converted, taking the pressure up a notch.
Pickford dually responded though, producing a brilliant one-handed save to deny Bacca before Eric Dier was on hand to ensure the penalty win – an ironic winner given his awful second-half cameo.
Southgate has done a phenomenal job to take pressure off this youthful England side, who now find themselves in with a real chance of winning the World Cup.
Of course, there remains expectations over what this side can, or should, produce given the path of opponents from here to the final, but his calming presence seems to have erased the errors of the past and allowed for a new dawn.
Tuesday’s affair involved a huge test of nerves for the young group, having come so close to a win inside the usual ninety minutes before a last gasp equaliser put England firmly in the backseat.
Jose Pekerman’s side fought tooth and nail across every acre of the pitch to scratch their way to the quarter-finals, with the late substitution of Eric Dier leaving the squad unbalanced and unable to create chances for Kane and Jamie Vardy.
The victory leaves them in a very promising position, facing Sweden in the quarter-final before a possible semi-final meeting with Russia or Croatia, thus avoiding a big powerhouse in the form of Brazil or France.
While there remains work to be done, as shown by a poor display in extra-time, Southgate’s side will slowly but surely begin to dream that they could be involved in a World Cup final.
Rest assured, you’ll be hard pressed finding a street in the U.K not filled with England supporters chanting about football coming home.