England are through to the World Cup quarter-finals after beating Colombia on penalties, preventing them from becoming the next big name unceremoniously dumped out of this year’s tournament.

A Harry Kane spot-kick put a dominant England ahead early in the second half of a scrappy game, before Colombia equalised in stoppage-time to send the game into a goalless extra-time period. Jordan Pickford was the hero in the shootout that went all the way to five kicks apiece, becoming the first England goalkeeper since David Seaman to save a World Cup penalty when he batted away Carlos Bacca’s effort, allowing Eric Dier to seal the win.

England reverted back to the starting XI that began the tournament, following wholesale team changes in the defeat to Belgium. Dele Alli was declared fit and replaced the impressive Ruben Loftus-Cheek who could count himself unlucky to be benched after two good performances in midfield. Colombia were not so lucky in the physio’s room, being left without their star playmaker James Rodriguez.

The first half was hardly a blockbuster in terms of entertainment. Neither team came particularly close to scoring. England’s best chance came from a flicked Harry Kane header from a Kieran Trippier cross which the England captain could only glance onto the roof of the net, Colombia’s with a weak effort dribbled towards Jordan Pickford and a wayward shot from range.

England started on top, gradually easing on the pressure, but a workmanlike Colombian defence managed to repel their threat and launch some averagely executed counter-attacks.

As the half wore on, Colombia looked more jaded without their attacking lynchpin Rodriguez, and with it came a drop in quality. The game was starting to slip away from the control of American referee Mark Geiger as it became niggly and disjointed, after several instances of holding and pushing at set pieces from the Colombian defence and a vicious barge on Harry Maguire. With England awarded a late free-kick, there was some handbags in the area, and Jordan Henderson appeared to be headbutted in the melee. Despite calls for a VAR decision, Geiger only booked the offender.

After the long wait, which included more jostling, Trippier could only hammer his free-kick wide.

In stoppage time, Dele Alli ended up on the ground injured with many England fans fearing the worst, although he emerged for the second period seemingly moving freely.

Colombia, then, had succeeded in making the first period a scrappy affair with little quality.

Not even ten minutes into a second half which started in the same way, and England had been awarded a penalty after Carlos Sánchez had a go at riding Harry Kane. England’s skipper might be used to carrying Spurs, but couldn’t manage a rowdy Colombian on his back, so Geiger had no hesitation pointing to the spot. After a long break for Colombia protests, Kane calmly slotted his spot-kick down the middle, evading his Arsenal rival David Ospina in goal and bringing the striker another step towards the tournament golden boot.

Despite their superior quality, Colombia were in fact no more disciplined than the Panamanians who dirtily hassled England in the group stage. Captain Radamel Falcao was the next name in the book for dissent after a Trippier cross was glanced just over by Alli’s head. The South Americans surrounded the referee with furious protests, alleging a dive by Maguire in the process, when the target of their ire should have been their own lax man marking.

Despite the lack of security a one-goal lead offers in a knockout game, England were looking unperturbed, calm and confident in defence, and measured in attack. Maguire rose majestically from a corner to head over, Kane tried an audacious volley from an awful Ashley Young free-kick and Jesse Lingard was denied a questionable penalty shout, with Colombia forced to cut out a number of other promising looking England attacks.

Eric Dier’s introduction for the battered and bruised Alli should have shored up the midfield as England looked to see the game out, but he couldn’t prevent Colombia coming into the game more in the closing stages. The England defence had to thank their lucky stars that Juan Cuadrado fired over after being gifted a chance on goal by a moment of sloppiness from Kyle Walker. A stoppage-time thunderbolt from Mateus Uribe then forced a sublime save from Pickford, who had to throw himself towards the top corner to protect his clean sheet.

England couldn’t, however, keep out the resulting corner.

A header from defender Yerry Mina from some distance evaded Pickford and Trippier on the far post to force extra time and spark delirious Colombia celebrations.

England retained their composure during the extra thirty minutes despite some good Colombia pressure in the first period. In the second, England re-asserted their dominance, substitute Jamie Vardy had a handful of half-chances as both teams tired, and another replacement Danny Rose flashed wide from a tight angle.

And so it went to penalties.

Colombia went first, and scored their first three. After England buried their first two, including another for an unruffled Kane, Jordan Henderson was the first to miss, seeing his shot saved by the outstretched Ospina low to his left to leave England 3-2 down. This was atoned for straightaway when Colombia’s Mateus Uribe smashed his spot-kick against the crossbar.

After Trippier scored to make it 3-3 from four kicks each, Pickford had a strong trailing hand to palm away Bacca’s penalty and leave England within touching distance. Substitute Dier was on the spot to smash home his penalty and secure England’s passage into the next round.

Geiger didn’t ask Kane for his shirt at half-time, as it was alleged he did from Cristiano Ronaldo during Portugal’s group game with Morocco. You wouldn’t have blamed him, though, with England’s classy plain red ensemble hardly denying its throwback to ’66.

But the kit is not the only thing making England fans, steadily streaming out to Russia in greater numbers now, believe. Although it took 120 minutes and penalties, we’ve shown real mental strength to overcome Mina’s heartbreaking equaliser and see off the potential Colombian banana skin, frustrated them with composed quality and kept our heads against a side losing theirs. If England can conquer a tough but beatable Sweden side on Saturday in the quarter-finals, maybe it really is coming home?

England pens: Kane (scored), Rashford (scored), Henderson (saved), Trippier (scored), Dier (scored).

 


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