Thursday 18 October 2018

Penalty demons exorcised as England set up World Cup clash with Sweden

The Three Lions and Sweden will battle for a semi-final place at the weekend.

England manager Gareth Southgate (left) and Eric Dier celebrate after the win (Owen Humphreys/PA)
England manager Gareth Southgate (left) and Eric Dier celebrate after the win (Owen Humphreys/PA)

By Simon Peach, Press Association Chief Football Writer, Moscow

Gareth Southgate hailed his group after England exorcised their penalty demons to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

After losing six of seven shootouts in major tournament history, fans were left rubbing their eyes in disbelief as the Three Lions rallied amid disappointment and controversy to beat Colombia in a frenetic last-16 clash in Moscow.

England recovered manfully from the gut punch of seeing Harry Kane’s spot-kick cancelled out in stoppage-time by Yerry Mina, which took the match to extra-time and eventually penalties with the score remaining 1-1.

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Harry Kane and John Stones celebrate the win in Moscow (Tim Goode/PA)

But where previous generations have floundered, Southgate’s men flourished.

While Jordan Henderson saw his penalty saved, Mateus Uribe’s attempt rattled the bar and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford denied Carlos Bacca as Eric Dier stepped up to secure a 4-3 win that will live long in the memory.

“Well, it will never be off my back sadly,” Southgate said, referring to his missed penalty at Euro 96. “That’s something that will live with me forever.

In life, we always have to believe in what is possible and not be hindered by history or the expectations

“But today is a special moment for this team and it’ll hopefully give belief to the generations of players that will follow because they can see what has happened.

“In life, we always have to believe in what is possible and not be hindered by history or the expectations.

“I think these young players are showing that. They’re enjoying the tournament, and we’re looking forward now to preparing for the quarter-final.”

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England are closing in on their best goalscoring record at the World Cup (PA Graphics)

Sweden now await in Samara on Saturday – a match they approach buoyed by a win secured in adversity.

Wilmar Barrios should have seen red for headbutting Henderson in the first half but England kept composure and streetwise attitude against a Colombia side attempting to outfight in the absence of star James Rodriguez.

“I am really proud of the way my team played,” Southgate said.

“I thought we controlled the game in the 90 minutes. I thought we played with great discipline.

“We were very composed in our use of the ball, and in a big game I think that was impressive from a young group of players.

“We then had to keep our discipline several times, which was outstanding.

“And we had a cruel blow on 90 minutes, which we then had to show incredible resilience to come back from.

“Although for 10 minutes maybe we were knocked, we then were back in control of the game, trying to push for the win but not leaving ourselves exposed.

“It’s a night when I knew we were going to get over the line.

“I just felt we had the resilience and belief to get over the line, whatever it was going to take.”

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Southgate’s confidence about penalties is somewhat surprising given England had only won one shootout in their history – but this was reward for months after hard work and preparation.

“We had an order,” said the England manager, who joked the dressing room was like a “scene from M*A*S*H*”.

“I knew the messages that I wanted to give the players, that we were in control of the process.

“I think we were very calm at the break of extra-time, and at the end of the game.

“We had a couple of injuries that meant we had to change the order a little bit, but I had real faith in the goalkeeper and the penalty takers.

“They showed great composure.”

Press Association

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