Wednesday 12 December 2018

Pickford steps up to banish hoodoo

Colombia 1 England 1 (England win 4-3 on pens AET)

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford stops Carlos Bacca's shot during the penalty shootout in Moscow last night. Photo: Alex Morton/Getty Images
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford stops Carlos Bacca's shot during the penalty shootout in Moscow last night. Photo: Alex Morton/Getty Images

Sam Wallace

This is a new England in one way for sure: through 10 penalties, three misses and the psychological torment that the team endures in such moments they emerged victorious for only the second tournament shoot-out in their history to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

England are through to the last eight and this World Cup is already a success with this first victory in a knockout game at a tournament since 2006, but now the expectation has to be that England can make the semi-finals.

They face Sweden in Samara on Saturday and that already feels like a game more winnable than this was - an electrifying bolt goes through England at the thought of what is possible.

They had been two minutes of injury-time away from a place in the quarter-finals, engulfed by rage on all sides by a Colombia team that was driven on by their own sense of injustice and a refusal to be beaten.

Refusal

The equaliser from Yerry Mina in a England penalty area encompassing every Colombian other than the corner-taker could have been another unforgettable wrong turn in the history of an England team but, having won it once, they went out and won it again.

Colombia's Wilmar Barrios (left) and England's Harry Kane battle for the ball. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Colombia's Wilmar Barrios (left) and England's Harry Kane battle for the ball. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

After extra-time the penalties went down to the 10th decisive kick from Eric Dier, who laid the ghost of six penalty shoot-out failures to rest by beating the Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina.

Jordan Pickford had saved the fifth from Carlos Bacca, and the previous had been crashed against the bar by Mateus Uribe. Jordan Henderson, history will note, also had his penalty saved, but instead of being a decisive moment it is simply a footnote to a splendid day for English football.

They had been so close once before and at that last corner of regulation time they led through a Harry Kane penalty, having handled the very best Colombia had served up, which was a lot of anger and intensity if not that much quality. For the most part, Gareth Southgate's players had kept their calm, moved the ball out from the back with patience, and when Kane had been given the opportunity he dispatched his sixth goal of the tournament from the spot.

Kane had epitomised the best of England - cool under pressure, keeping possession, drawing fouls. But there had been others too, including John Stones and Harry Maguire who had done nothing wrong in their defensive work or in the demands made of them to pass the ball out from the back.

Colombia's Luis Muriel (left) and England's Kieran Trippier exchange words. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire
Colombia's Luis Muriel (left) and England's Kieran Trippier exchange words. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

What went wrong? In those last stages of the regulation 90 minutes, England fell back, Southgate opting for Eric Dier as a replacement for Dele Alli and that instinct towards safety-first seemed to draw Colombia on to them.

The South Americans were without James Rodriguez, their chief playmaker and that hurt them, but in his absence they kept their shape in midfield and defence and tried to pick England off quickly when possession was handed over.

There was a strong performance from the tall, powerful Barcelona centre-back Mina, who would later get the equaliser, and alongside him Tottenham's Davinson Sanchez. The Colombians were as obstructive and awkward as they could be for the many first half set-pieces England had, doubling down on Kane and Maguire and it was from a free-kick that the first key flashpoint emerged.

That was a major jostle within a defensive wall and the midfielder Wilmar Barrios momentarily losing his cool with Jordan Henderson, thrusting his head into his chest and then upwards into the Liverpool man's jaw. It was hard to tell why, only to say that the Colombians were right on the edge, including Cuadrado for much of the game and that meant they took risks.

England celebrate winning the penalty shootout. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
England celebrate winning the penalty shootout. Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

In this instance the American referee Matt Geiger might have sent off Barrios but chose a yellow card.

That intensity of mood and animosity just seemed to ratchet up and then the penalty came for England, as Colombia pushed too far at another defensive set-piece. Kane was at the back of a queue of four England players with the defender Carlos Sanchez inserted between them and as the striker broke forward he was held back before going down with the Colombian on his back.

In the minutes after his decision to give a penalty, the referee Geiger lost control, with the Colombians looming over him. It meant that Kane was obliged to wait until at last he struck his penalty, much more central than the previous two but Ospina had already launched himself to the right.

Hurt

The time that had been taken out of the game at that penalty would later come back to hurt England. They were forced to defend but survived a mistake: Kyle Walker letting in the substitute Bacca from whose pass Cuadrado missed the target wildly.

England's goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and teammates celebrate. Photo: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty
England's goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and teammates celebrate. Photo: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty

What caught England was Colombia's power at set-pieces, and a final corner conceded when Pickford pushed a shot wide and up came every yellow shirt as well as Ospina to try to force the equaliser. It was Mina who got the ball, a downward header which bounced in front of Kieran Trippier and which the full-back headed upwards, as if he was trying to push over the bar instead of heading out.

The third minute of time added on, and the equaliser had come for Colombia, their bench surging forward onto the pitch. England had lost the impetus, with Dier's more defensive instincts and, ahead of him, Jamie Vardy, on for Sterling, struggled to get into the game. Marcus Rashford came on and took one of the penalties at the end - one of the four who signalled that a new England is here. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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