This article titled “England win shootout: five things we learned from beating Colombia” was written by Dominic Fifield at the Spartak Stadium, for The Guardian on Wednesday 4th July 2018 03.45 Asia/Kolkata
So this is a new England after all
Gareth Southgate has been preaching it for months, and some of the slick approach play delivered in Russia had reinforced his argument, but this was evidence England have changed. All those psychometric tests at St George’s Park and drills on the training ground in Repino have paid dividends. England did not wilt in a penalty shootout and, as a result, neither did they exit the tournament in the first knockout stage. Instead, for the first time in 12 years, a knockout tie has been negotiated, with passage booked to a quarter-final against Sweden in Samara on Saturday. That game will provide a very different type of test but, whatever happens, this campaign now feels properly progressive.
The doubting of Pickford can stop
Thibaut Courtois’s criticisms after the group game defeat by Belgium that Jordan Pickford was too short stung England’s young goalkeeper but this was quite a way to respond. His save deep into stoppage time from Mateus Uribe’s volley was outstanding and deserved better than a concession from the corner. Yet the 24-year-old reserved his best for the shootout. His block with his left hand from Carlos Bacca took the breath away. The psychological effect that save will have on England cannot be overstated but it will pep the goalkeeper’s self-belief most of all. Pickford will suddenly feel 10ft tall.
Geiger had no chance of keeping control …
This match always had the potential to be fractious with scrutiny falling on the referee, Mark Geiger, sooner rather than later. The former maths teacher has endured difficult moments – he is still reviled in Panama for his display in a Gold Cup semi-final three years ago – and there were times when it threatened to veer out of his control. Not that he was necessarily culpable. Any referee would have struggled. The red mist descended on Colombia’s players once Carlos Sánchez had been penalised for rugby tackling Harry Kane to concede the penalty. A backlash to Geiger’s performance will presumably follow but the American was pushed to the limit. At the end he looked relieved it was over.
… but England wouldn’t be provoked
England deserve credit for retaining their calm for as long as they did. They were convinced they should have been competing against 10 men from just before the interval when, while it was far from clear to those in the stadium, Geiger had apparently asked the VAR to consider Wilmar Barrios’s deliberate flick of his head into Jordan Henderson’s chest and then chin. He deemed that offence a yellow card. Mark Clattenburg, working as a pundit, suggested that should have been a red for violent conduct. Yet while they accrued a pair of cautions of their own, England were never rattled by the provocation. It was the late corner that prompted panic and will have unnerved Southgate as 93 minutes of toil were undermined by one excellent delivery.
Barcelona have a bargain in Mina
Yerry Mina had been a colossus, even before taking the limelight with his stoppage-time equaliser. The man-mountain at the heart of the Colombia defence is still finding his feet in La Liga but at around £10m Barcelona appear to have pulled off a coup in securing him from Palmeiras. The 23-year-old has the skill in possession to fit in at Barça but it was his height and power that punished England in Moscow. At 6ft 5in, he dwarfed the not inconsiderable Davinson Sánchez at his side, repelling so many of the set pieces that had helped propel England this far. Mina dominated, as Harry Maguire discovered to his cost in the 93rd minute. No wonder Barça have set his buy-out clause at €100m.
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