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England Break Penalty Hoodoo in Colombia Shootout

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July 4, 2018
England beat Colombia 4-3 on penalties to earn a place in the quarter finals

The final games on the Round of 16 to settle the two remaining quarter-final berths took place and there are no surprise as to which of the two was the top of the card. England, as a result of being beaten by Belgium in their final group game, landed in the so-called easy half of the draw. Trouble was that Colombia were the gate-keepers. Trouble for Colombia was that they didn’t have their ringmaster as James Rodriguez wasn’t fit enough to even make the bench.

We’ve been told all along that this England team differs from those that have gone before – they are young, humble, even likeable. As the match drew to a close, we began to believe them but then, from nowhere, the ghosts of the past re-appeared and with them all the doubts and fears that have haunted them for decades. England were made to walk through the fire and they came out the other side, tempered by the flames. Where does their horizon sit now?

It starts with Sweden. The men from northern Europe set out their stall early against Switzerland and unsurprisingly, it was the same stall which has served them so well throughout this summer. Composure, competence and cunning compensate for craft, quality and killer instinct. Although, maybe it’s unfair to say that they lack quality – Emil Forsberg certainly has some but he is not so good that the team is built around just him. Sweden are essentially a really good version of Iceland and it was enough to account for a Switzerland who huffed and puffed without ever coming close to landing a knock-out blow. Sweden won’t convert anyone to the game of football but they unerring efficiency has got them this far and they won’t be changing any time soon.

England 1 – 1 Colombia (4 – 3 penalties)

The final game of the Round of 16 looked set to be a classic; well, according to the press in the build-up anyway. Colombia, shorn of their talisman James Rodriguez, were the longer price according to those who know (the bookies) but would have given any such notions short thrift. With El Tigre leading them from the front, Colombia knew that they had a chance against a callow England defence. England, for their part, exuded a confidence not seen in their parts for a long, long time. Harry Kane was leading the line for them and national glory aside also had his eye on the Golden Boot.

The opening 10 minutes were frantic and end-to-end. Colombia pressed high on England’s wing-backs, forcing them through the middle but England were well-stocked in that area and enjoyed the majority of possession. They were forcing free-kicks and winning corners, all dangerous propositions for Colombia as this England team have been very effective from set pieces. They couldn’t make any of them count – yet. Gradually Colombia began to find their way, stringing passes together and gaining confidence but without Rodriguez, they had trouble creating anything for Radamel Falcao. Quintero was supposed to be the man that would take up the reins but he hadn’t yet figured out a way through Jordan Henderson et al.

It was difficult to get a handle on who was getting the better of who but, without either ‘keeper really being tested to an appreciable degree, it was England shading it in a scrappy, fractious affair. Tensions were running high with plenty of niggle and complaints to the referee who was certainly earning his crust. Whatever else this was, it was not the beautiful game. Falcao was isolated but so too was Kane, neither forward being given the kind of service that they need to thrive. England were industrious and worked hard; it didn’t create anything for them up front but it did keep Colombia from getting at their weak point in their back line.

The second half came out in the same clothes as the first and it was helter-skelter from the off. England won a corner and, with the referee looking right at him, Carlos Sanchez decided that would be the perfect time to climb all over Harry Kane and bring him to the ground. The official immediately pointed to the spot but the resultant kick was anything but prompt as Colombia’s players were vociferous in the extreme with their protests. As always, Kane was the coolest man on the pitch and waited until the storm had abated before putting it straight down the middle, past Ospina and into the net.

Tempers were dialled up to 10 and Colombia managed to utterly lose the run of themselves for a spell, testing the referee’s patience to breaking point. All England had to do now that they had the lead was to keep their cool and not get dragged into the brawl that Colombia were itching for. Jordan Henderson and Jesse Lingard both received yellow cards but apart from that, England were both professional and mature, in stark contrast to a Colombia side who displayed no tactical acumen or the wherewithal to carry it out even if they had. Their best chance came in the 80th minute when Kyle Walker was caught in possession and Colombia broke forward with Carlos Bacca charging into space. He put it into the path of Cuadrado but the winger carelessly blazed over. It looked as if that would be that as Colombia seemed singularly incapable of getting the ball into England’s penalty area.

They did at last manage to keep England under some kind of sustained pressure and, when the ball was cleared into midfield, Uribe took a first time shot from over 40 yards out that Jordan Pickford managed to claw from the top corner with a world-class save; it was Colombia’s one bit of real class in the whole match. With the clock showing 92 minutes, Colombia swung in the corner and, once again, that man Yerry Mina rose highest, nodded it into the ground and over Kieran Trippier at the post. England thought they were home and hosed but instead, pandemonium decided to make a house call. All of a sudden this ‘new England’ looked an awful lot like the older version. The remaining minutes passed without much sense from either side before the ref blew for the end of regulation time.

Extra time began with both sets of players looking tired having run themselves ragged but it was now a case of who would blink first. Colombia were clearly buoyed by their late goal and brought the game to England in a far more aggressive manner than had been seen in the game up to this point. England seemed to still be suffering from the shock of their late concession and the occasion looked to be getting the better of this young side.

The second 15 minutes was like the final round of a heavyweight contest with punches being thrown heavily and slowly in between deep breaths and sagging constitutions. Calf muscles were being held, men were staying down and struggled to get up but neither side conceded. At last, inevitably, England’s worst fear came to pass – it came down to penalties.

The thing about nightmares that most people forget is that each time you have one, there is the chance for you beat it, to take all of its power away and cast it aside for good. Once you can stand up to the fear and face it down, you needn’t ever meet it again. Jordan Henderson felt that fear following his miss, he saw his name writ large in the roll call of England’s infamy but luckily for him, a reprieve was around the corner as Colombia missed the next one. The final penalty for Colombia was taken by Carlos Bacca but, for the first time since David Seaman 20 years ago, an England goalkeeper saved a penalty in a World Cup shootout. It was up to Eric Dier to finish it and send England into hysteria – that he did. The curse was lifted – England had won a penalty shootout and were through to the quarter-finals. The dream is not only alive but becoming flesh.

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Sweden 1-0 Switzerland

It wasn’t expected to be the most glamorous of ties and that was just Sweden’s take on it. Arguably the least glitzy tie of the round of 16, the match still had to be won – and watched. Switzerland were neat and tidy from the off, using the width of the pitch with patient build-up play. Sweden, by contrast, were content to hold before attacking with a rapier thrust. This approach nearly paid off within the first 10 minutes when uncertainty in the Swiss guard presented Sweden with the chance to open their account early doors. They didn’t make it count but warning had been served. Following their opening foray, Sweden fell back into their shape, closing off the spaces Switzerland required to get Xherdan Shaqiri more fully into the game. When he did get his foot on the ball, the diminutive playmaker often created opportunities for his strikers to attack but Josip Drmic was singularly ineffective in converting and Sweden’s defence held firm.

In an entertaining first half, there were decent chances at both ends but neither side could take advantage. Sweden impressed with their unfussy ability to force Switzerland out wide and comfortably deal with any crosses that made their way in. Switzerland’s best chance came by way of a cute one-two but the resulting shot was blasted over. On the whole, the game played out as many as expected that it might with the first half ending 0-0. Sweden frustrated Switzerland through sheer doggedness and organization and, by rights, should have been in front relative to the quality and quantity of chances they created.

The second 45 saw arguably even more possession for Switzerland but once again, they did little enough to trouble Sweden. We started to hear the referee’s whistle with more regularity, an indication of the scrappy nature of play. Emil Forsberg was getting on the ball more for Sweden and little by little dragged them forward with more consistency. During one of these phases, he took possession outside Switzerland’s box, let the ball roll across him before shooting. It looked as if it would be a routine save for Yann Sommer but Manuel Akanji instinctively stuck out a boot to put it beyond his flat-footed ‘keeper. With a little over 20 minutes to play, Sweden were in front.

Their fans were going wild but the Swedes on the pitch remained ultra cool. They settled into their defensive pattern without really ‘parking the bus’ or being overly negative; it was simply composed and competent, each player knowing their role as an individual and as part of their unit. For Switzerland, Ricardo Rodriguez provided a stream of quality crosses from the left but a combination of poor anticipation by his forwards and excellent defending by Sweden’s defence, in particular, Andreas Granqvist, kept Switzerland at bay.

As you might expect, the dying minutes saw Switzerland go into full siege mode but the result was the same as it had been for the preceding 90 minutes and Sweden ran out winners. Switzerland can’t have any complaints; they weren’t as clinical as their opponents nor as organized whereas Sweden were brutally efficient, clear in their intent and made the most of their opportunities. You won’t get the pretty stuff from them, few showreels will end up on YouTube but they appear to be united as a team and play close to the fullness of their ability. They can’t produce the quality out of nowhere but if they could transfer a dose of the composure that they show at the back when faced with opportunities up front, the quarter-finals needn’t be the summit of their ambitions.

  • Colombia
  • England
  • Round of 16
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • world cup

    About the author

    Eric Roberts
    Eric Roberts

    Sports Journalist

    Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.