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World Cup 2018

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5 shots from Day 20 - How we sighed - and fretted - for 'Dear Old England'!

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England's Jordan Pickford celebrates after saving Colombia's Carlos Bacca penalty during the shootout with team mates on 3 July 2018. Reuters/John Sibley

  • Hard times

What the dickens were José Pekermen’s lads on? They highlighted the clump in Colombia by collecting six yellow cards during the last 16 match against England. They scraped, scrapped, niggled and harangued the man-in-the-middle to such an extent that many of them seemed fortunate to stay on the pitch. At this point, it is important to hail the World Cup referee selection committee for a sense of vision. Name of the official dealing with the toxicity? Mark Geiger. 

  • Why, oh why?

Baffling times indeed. England pass the ball to each other for prolonged periods and win a penalty shootout. All very well and good for England. But really the Colombia fans were poorly served. They bellowed, bounced, danced and sang throughout the 120 minutes and the shootout with an appealing fervour, brightness and joy. They even managed to inject a sense of fun into whistling and howling every time England had the temerity to have the ball. The Colombian players on the pitch did not honour their fans at all.

They were so negative and ugly. It was only as they went in search of an equaliser towards the end of the 90 minutes that they started to play some football that echoed their fans’ resounding exuberance. And in the first 10 minutes or so of extra-time, Columbia were England’s superior. Which begs the question, why didn’t they channel their energies and their skills into creating chances in the opposition area? Real opportunity lost because on the basis of their positivity, they were better than England.

  • Old school tapes

Colombia’s players must have been watching videos of England’s past. They clearly did not believe England boss Gareth Southgate when he said that his rebooted England team would keep their composure and not resort to pump and circumstance. Perhaps the Colombians thought: “Yeah, right. You is the one-footed lot. You can’t help yourselves … and when it comes to penalties …”

  • Wrinkles of age

There is a kinky kick the time space continuum. Must be. Because the England team won a penalty shootout. The first time they have done this at a World Cup. The review was there in Gelsenkirchen in 2006 at the World Cup in Germany when England lost to Portugal on penalties in the last eight. Portugal. That seemed so normal. One fan told the review during the train ride back to Cologne. “It’s so depressing, I can’t even think about being violent.” There was unalloyed joy for England’s fans after the shootout at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow. We feel sad though for Jordan Henderson. For a few seconds before his penalty, he spanned new and old. The nexus generation midfielder did a few keepy uppies before planting the ball on the spot. Very now England: poise, process, focus, composure. He missed. 

  • Swede dreams are made of this

“He's blonde, he's quick, his name's a porno flick, Emmanuel! Emmanuel!” Oh, the evergreen wit of our Arsenal cousins. That little ditty about the Frenchman Emmanuel petit hails from the days when Arsenal won league titles and England’s players had no success in penalty shootouts. Sepia indeed. And after the joy of Spartak, maybe things will change for Arsenal too. Sweden are up next for Gareth Southgate’s England.

The Swedes haven’t been in a World Cup quarter-final since 1994, so they’re hurting even more than England. And they don’t see the need to be frightened of England having seen off several putative big guns such as the Netherlands and Italy on their way to Russia. With Colombia, the Swedes emerged from a group featuring defending champions Germany and South Korea. The Swedes beat Switzerland 1-0 in St Petersburg on day 20. And they’ve got the taste of blood. “If you start to lower the bar or your ambition, that's not going to be satisfying,” said Sweden coach Janne Andersson. "We're not satisfied with the quarter-final. We want to win the next match as well.” But don’t rely on penalties Janne.