A thrilling Round of 16 encounter has seen England defeat Colombia 4-3 on penalties, with Eric Dier netting the decisive spot-kick after the scores were locked at 1-1 following extra-time.
Harry Kane gave England the lead from the spot in the 57th minute after he was felled by Carlos Sanchez in the box. The Spurs hitman placed the resulting spot-kick straight down the middle as Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina dived to his right.
Juan Cuadrado had a massive chance to equalise as regular-time wound down, pouncing on a defensive error from the England back-three to instigate a three-on-two counter-attack before firing his eventual shot over the bar.
With the seconds ticking away, all things seemed to be pointing towards an England victory until Yerry Mina popped up in the third minute of stoppage time with a towering header that Kieran Trippier was unable to keep out on the goal line.
Extra-time was a tale of two halves as Colombia rode the momentum for the first 15 to pressure England before sitting back and surviving a push from the Three Lions to force the game to penalties.
The shootout was in the balance until Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson’s missed with England’s third spot-kick kick to give Colombia the advantage – up 3-2 up after three kicks each.
However, Mateus Uribe and Carlos Bacca missed Los Cafetors’ final two shots. With Kieran Trippier finding the net the chance to send the Three Lions through fell to substitute Eric Dier, which the Spurs man delivered on: putting his shot into the bottom left corner.
World Cup football at its finest
This game epitomised that passion and drama of the World Cup finals, and proved an entertaining spectacle for both sets of fans, as well as neutrals right across the world.
American referee Mark Geiger brandished a total of eight yellow cards in this match, as the game threatened to hit boiling point with both teams’ competitiveness meeting head to head.
Six of those went to the Colombians, who played in the typical tenacious, hard-nosed South American style which put England off their game and allowed them to stay in the contest amidst England’s slick possession play.
By no means a dirty game, but one that was fought well by both teams and showcased the wonders of the World Cup.
Colombia miss James
Despite his side putting in a good performance, Jose Pekerman was sorely missing the talent of his star man James Rodriguez, and one must wonder if Colombia may have won the game with him in the side.
Juan Quintero was unable to completely fill the void in that role behind the striker as the burden fell onto his shoulders, as well as the likes of Juan Cuadrado and Radamel Falcao, to be the creative spark for their team.
Coming up against an England team that had only conceded two goals in the group stages, it was always going to be tough, with or without James, and the Colombians fought tirelessly and struggled to gain a foothold of the midfield battle.
At times Falcao was left isolated against England’s three centre backs, and lacked the service and supported he needed to harness the form he has displayed with Monaco over the past two seasons.
The final killer pass was an issue for Pekerman’s side, which perhaps led to growing frustrations and overzealous pressing which contributed to the high yellow card count, and ultimately halted Colombia’s attempts to find a winner.
It is a bitter blow for James, who was so brilliant in Colombia’s 2014 campaign, finishing as the tournament’s top scorer and earning himself a move to Real Madrid.
England break their hoodoo
With victory in this match Gareth Southgate – whose famous penalty miss as a player at Euro 96 was immortalised in the opening to footballing anthem Three Lions ’98 – delivered England’s first win in the knockout stages of a major tournament since the round of 16 victory over Ecuador in Germany 2006 and, after 28 years and 6 consecutive penalty shootout defeats in major tournaments, broke the Three Lions penalty shootout hoodoo.
The excitement surrounding Southgate’s side is something that has not been seen in a long time for an English side as they bid for their second World Cup crown and first since 1966.
The young team is playing vibrant, entertaining football, and Southgate’s three at the back system is efficient and dynamic, which allows the side to get the best out of each player in their respective positions.
Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young were again instrumental out wide in the wing back roles, while the midfield dynamism of Jordan Henderson holding down the base with Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli ahead of him allows them to be fluid and support the front two as they push forward.
With the Three Lions finding themselves on the more favorable side of the draw, even more so now with Spain eliminated, they should be backing themselves to not only advance through the quarter finals, but to go on and challenge in the latter stages of the tournament.
Sweden will be a whole new proposition in the last eight and one that Southgate’s side should not take lately, however, there is much reason for confidence in the England camp going forward.