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Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

FIFA World Cup 2018: England make history, by the hand of Jordan Pickford

After three previous failures, England end curse of penalties to set up FIFA World Cup 2018 quarter-final against Sweden

football Updated: Jul 04, 2018 19:35 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Moscow
England's Jordan Pickford saves a penalty during the shootout from Colombia's Carlos Bacca.
England's Jordan Pickford saves a penalty during the shootout from Colombia's Carlos Bacca.(REUTERS)

When the referee blew the final whistle at the end of extra-time at the Otkritie Arena here on Tuesday evening, there were a few fist bumps among the Colombia players and coaching staff. England, in contrast, seemed to be in a sombre mood. Because penalties loomed and they weren’t known to do that very well.

To the long penalties’ phobia, there was a personal connection here. Twenty-two years ago when England lost to Germany and exited from the European championships, it was Gareth Southgate’s missed penalty that had caused it. That night at Wembley had ended in tears for Southgate.

The England shirt has been replaced by a shiny waist-coat but when Jordan Henderson’s penalty was saved, it looked like the England manager would be in for another night of pain.

Then Mateus Uribe missed and England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saved Carlos Bacca’s effort. Eric Dier then held his nerve to secure England’s passage to the last-eight.

Southgate leapt in joy. It was his night as much as it was Pickford’s whose save meant that England won a penalty shootout for the first time in the World Cup after three previous failures.

“Missing my penalty (in 1996) will never be off my back, sadly. That’s something that will live with me forever. But today is a special moment for this team. It will, hopefully, give belief to the generations of players that will follow. We always have to believe in what is possible in life and not be hindered by history or expectations,” said Southgate.

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“Tonight they showed they don’t have to conform to what’s gone before. They have created their own history, and I don’t want to go home yet,” he added.

Home is still far off and Southgate will now need to focus on playing Sweden in the quarter-final to keep alive the bid to end a 52-year wait for a World Cup.

The game itself had been a drab affair. With creative engine James Rodriguez missing despite coach Jose Pekerman claiming he could be fit to play, Colombia resorted to skullduggery.

While Wilmar Barrios was surprisingly shown just a yellow for a head-butt on Henderson in the first half, Colombia’s physical approach fetched five more bookings.

It could perhaps have been more but at his post-match press conference, Pekerman instead accused England of diving.

“We shouldn’t only look at Colombian players. People should look at England players. I wish I was wrong but I think from the next match England will be much more careful,” he said.

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“We are getting smarter. Maybe we played by the same rules as the rest of the world. But we kept our dignity and our sportsmanship and if we were down, it was because we were fouled. I am proud of the discipline,” Southgate responded.

Colombia’s disruptive tactics were often aimed at the referee too. When Carlos Sanchez brought Harry Kane down inside the box, Colombia held up play by a couple of minutes to argue their case. If it was also meant to disturb Kane, it didn’t work.

Colombia’s first major chance didn’t come until the 81st minute when Juan Cuadrado went over from a counter-attack. Then, three minutes into injury-time, Yerry Mina headed in his third goal of the tournament to make it 1-1.

There were many who felt England would crack under pressure as penalties ensued. This time, however, Southgate’s side got the job done.

First Published: Jul 04, 2018 19:35 IST

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