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England Win on Penalties in Moscow: England v Colombia Match Review

It was a must-win situation for England when they faced Colombia on Tuesday night, with both sides fighting tooth and nail for a place in the quarter finals, and after full time slid into extra time, and extra time merged into penalties, England stood victorious on the back of one penalty kick from Spurs own Eric Dier.

The First Half

The first half was an ugly and uncompromising blur, as both squads fought with the energy of teams faced with their own World Cup mortality. Colombia seemed to have missed the memo that football, not UFC, was the order of  the evening, with studs, elbows and shirt pulling all making egregious appearances. The ref struggled to keep the match under control, with both teams appealing every decision, giving no quarter to the other side whenever a successful run was made. As Colombian tempers flared, England kept their heads with a dominant first half, yet come half time the score still sat at a frustrating 0-0.

The Second Half

The opening of the second half had the same dangerous edge as the first, with Santiago Arias, Carlos Sanchez Moreno and Jordan Henderson all getting yellow cards within the opening 15 minutes; before the end of this match, 5 Colombian and 2 English players would be booked.

Harry Kane continued his magnetism to opposition fouls, racking up 9 infractions against him before the end of the match. The ref did award a penalty for a particularity brazen tackle at the edge of the box however, and Kane continued his run of clinical penalties, screaming it onto the back of the net in the 57th minute.

After the goal, the game returned to the dogged affair it had been before and as the half wore on, Colombia made more and more successful incursions into England’s half. The squad was refreshed come the last 20 minutes; Dele Alli for Eric Dier, Raheem Sterling for Jamie Vardy, but that one more moment of magic to push England into a comfortable lead couldn’t be found.

And then, in the most ‘skin of your teeth’ moment in a tournament coming to be defined by ‘skin of your teeth’ moments, Colombia equalised. Yerry Mina rose above the England squad in the box and headed it into the goal in the 3rd minute of injury time.

Extra Time

With an extra 30 minutes, it was touch and go as to whether either team had the energy to see it out. Substitutions were made left and right on both sides, with Danny Rose and Marcus Rashford coming on to refresh the English squad, but no goals were forth coming. Colombia looked the more dangerous side, but they were kept at bay as an England fans worst nightmare began to hove into view; penalties.

Penalties

After a tense and huddled talk from manager Gareth Southgate, the squad stepped back onto the pitch fully aware of what this could mean; England had never won a penalty shootout, and Southgate’s Euro ’96 memories were only too pertinent.

Falcao and Kane both slotted home comfortable penalties, as did Cuardo and Rashford. Muriel found the back of net as well, but Jordan Henderson’s powerful kick was reached by Ospina. Any other night, it would have found its mark, but it just wouldn’t have been this World Cup if it had.

As Uribe span his into the crossbar, England’s hopes rose again, compounded by a following, almost Harry Kane-esque, top left shot by Kieran Trippier.

Still level after over 2 hours of play, Jordan Pickford got his fingers to Bacca’s shot, and England held its breath.

Peaking out from behind it’s collective fingers, the nation dared to dream as Eric Dier walked up to the spot. Could this be it? Could England win on penalties? Could we make it to the quarter finals? Could it be coming home? And, with the work of but a moment, Eric Dier found the back left of the net, securing England’s place in the World Cup quarter finals.

What can the team learn from this?

The Good

Gareth Southgate’s gamble when England faced Belgium paid off. The team kept up with a relentless Colombia well into injury time, and Southgate’s smart substitutions were used to great effect to keep the team refreshed. Add to this the fact that this squad made history, winning England’s first ever penalty shootout, and this momentum will be a big boost come the next game.

The Bad

Once the euphoria wears off, its becomes achingly apparent that this shouldn’t have been as close as it was. Colombia were playing well, Spurs own Davinson Sanchez deserving of special mention, but England have beaten them far more comfortably in the past. With any luck, this experience, plus the defeat to the very impressive Belgium, will provide the motivation and perspective needed for England to do well in their coming matches.

After the match, Southgate had this to say;

“Shootouts are tough. We had talked long and hard about owning the process of a shootout. They kept calm. The players have taken it all on board. It’s a special moment for us…we looked at technique, how we needed to be as a team, the goalkeeper’s role…but now I’m thinking about Sweden. They are another team we have a poor record against. We have underestimated them for years.”

What’s next for England?

After beating Switzerland 1-0, Sweden will be England’s next challenge. An impressive side so far, tune into the BBC on Saturday 7th July to see how England fare.

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