Russia 2018 Watch: England keep calm and carry on
PUBLISHED: 22:44 03 July 2018
PA Wire/PA Images
It’s coming home, they said. It very nearly wasn’t.
Supporting England during a World Cup was never going to be easy. Hopefully it is a bit easier watching their quarter-final against Sweden on Saturday afternoon.
The draw is opening up, we were told. England will never have a better chance with Germany, Argentina, Spain, Portugal already out, we were promised.
Winning their first penalty shoot-out at a World Cup to beat Colombia should give Gareth Southgate’s young hopefuls even more belief.
Lee Dixon’s voice was cracking over the pictures of England’s players celebrating on ITV, Ian Wright sounded like he was crying.
It needn’t have been so hard.
‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ has become a bit of a motto for the English. It’s printed on mugs and tea towels after all. Thankfully, our footballers did just that in their last-16 tie.
England looked good going forward from the start, with some nice interplay, despite being jeered by the majority of the crowd whenever they were in possession.
Harry Maguire gave Juan Cuadrado a bump by the corner flag to show he meant business, but then Jordan Henderson was headbutted by Wilmar Barrios while lining up at a free-kick.
American referee Mark Geiger (who must surely be nicknamed ‘Counter’ by his buddies as he certainly ended up collecting plenty of cards) went to VAR and showed his first yellow when most observers expected red. A nation sighed.
It remained goalless at half time, by which time the niggling fouls had started to mount.
The BBC Sport website staff noted: “This could kick-off at any moment. As Raheem Sterling ran off the pitch a Colombia coach just moves across and shoulder barges him. Silly.”
ITV’s Clive Tyldesley summarised: “England have played well but have nothing to show for it. This young team has the stage, do they have the performance?”
There was one big refereeing decision to discuss at half-time for presenter Mark Pougatch and his pundits, including Mark Clattenburg in his ‘analysis truck’, but there was little doubt about the opening goal when it arrived shortly before the hour mark.
Carlos Sanchez rugby-tackled Harry Kane to the turf at an England corner, right in front of Geiger, who pointed to the spot.
“That is a foul anywhere on the park. They’ve got no complaints, it’s a penalty all day long,” said Glenn Hoddle.
Yet Colombia did complain, for approximately three minutes and 31 seconds, as Kane waited patiently to take his spot-kick. The South Americans even started scuffing up the turf by the penalty spot, according to the commentators.
Henderson was booked for nudging a Colombian player with his head.
“Tottenham against Arsenal,” said Tyldesley, irrelevantly before the England captain smacked the ball down the middle past Gunners keeper David Ospina.
“What nerve from Harry Kane,” added Hoddle. “It’s not about technique, it’s the mental approach.”
Colombia were incensed. The beautiful game got ugly.
“England have got to try and walk away from all of this,” we were told. “They cannot get involved in the chaos in this game.”
Sir Geoff Hurst was likening it to England v Argentina at the 1966 World Cup. DO NOT GET INVOLVED.
One can only imagine how fans were reacting in pubs up and down the country. I was shouting at the TV in my lounge.
“Headbutt. Barge. Fight. Argue. Concede a goal. Dive. Dive. Dive.” noted Kate on the BBC Sport website.
Colombia sent on Carlos Bacca. He fouled John Stones to collect his side’s fifth booking of the game, with 26 minutes still to be played.
Geiger kept blowing his whistle. One wondered if Opta kept count of such statistics.
Raheem Sterling lit up proceedings with a lovely backheel for Ashley Young.
Danny Murphy was quoted online saying: “I can’t condone what some of these Colombia players are doing to cheat to try and win a football match.”
Jesse Lingard was booked for a stupid foul on Cuadrado, then wasted a great chance to lay on a second goal for Kane.
England players lined up at another corner. Hoddle called it “The love train”.
Lingard went down in the box on a counter-attack. Terry Butcher called it anti-football by Colombia and thought it was a penalty, as did Murphy.
But then Kyle Walker gave the ball away and Cuadrado blazed a good chance to level over the crossbar.
It was a warning for England and led to an uncomfortable quarter of an hour for the fans in the stadium and the armchair public.
Lingard wasted another chance to find Sterling in the box, before Dele Alli made way for Eric Dier with nine minutes left.
It was a case of just seeing out time, but then Uribe let fly with a speculative shot that Jordan Pickford tipped acrobatically behind.
It was a brief reprieve as Yerry Mina headed home from the corner, in the third minute of stoppage time.
Colombia celebrated for nearly two full minutes, Mina looked to have hurt himself in the process. And so it went to extra time.
This was England’s 66th match at a World Cup finals and the spirit of the Boys of 66 was summoned as Tyldesley mentioned Sir Alf Ramsey’s message to his players as they prepared for extra time in the final with Germany on that historic day.
“You’ve won it once, now go and win it again.”
Colombia looked the only likely winners in the first period of extra time, though, as England came to terms with having victory snatched from their grasp.
They needed composure and character as the crowd turned hostile. Radamel Falcao headed a decent chance wide.
“We look broken,” said Dixon during the turnaround.
“It’s like we’re hanging on. It’s a massive test, I’m really worried, I feel so nervous for the guys,” added Wright.
“We’ve clammed up. We need a moment,” said Gary Neville.
Kieran Trippier and Stones made a hash of a throw-in after the restart as nervousness seeped from the pores of the men in red shirts.
But then Danny Rose found space on the left and flashed a drive just past the far post and Eric Dier sent a free header over the crossbar.
“Hands up who feels sick?” asked Tyldesley, as it went to penalities. Thousands of miles away from the melting pot of Moscow, in the comfort of my own home I raised my hand.
But Wrighty was suddenly in full-on positivity mode. Neville explained how being involved in a shoot-out was ‘an outer-body experience’.
Kane and Marcus Rashford cancelled out the first two Colombia efforts, but then Henderson saw his penalty saved.
“There was no disguise,” said Hoddle. It was a good height for the keeper to be fair.
However, Uribe smacked the next spot-kick against the crossbar, allowing Trippier to square matters with a confident finish.
Pickford then threw up his left arm to deny Bacca, allowing Dier to win it. Which he did. Goodbye Colombia.
Keep calm and carry on. See you on Saturday Sweden.
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