St George’s Day Special : England vs Colombia, World Cup 2018

On St George’s Day, let’s look back and remember the last time we were all proud to be English. The 3rd July 2018. The summer of big screens and bigger dreams.⠀

Things were progressing reasonably well. An unfancied England had navigated their group and there were whisperings that if results went our way, a relatively attractive route to the final could be in the offing – the easy side of the draw, they were calling it.⠀

Colombia obviously hadn’t got the message. For 90 minutes of their World Cup round of 16 tie they hustled and harried, late tackles and fiery tempers characterising their physical approach. A 93rd minute equaliser had rescued their World Cup dream, while an incredible diving Jordan Pickford save had done the same for England in extra-time.⠀

After 30 additional minutes, the teams still couldn’t be separated. It was time to confront an old foe: penalties. England hadn’t won a shoot-out in 22 years and manager Gareth Southgate had his own demons to wrestle, famously missing the decisive spot-kick against Germany in 1996.⠀

It was time to put things right.⠀

What follows are eight of the tensest minutes you could imagine. Falcao and Kane slot their efforts home to get us underway. Cuadrado and Rashford follow suit. Luis Muriel puts the Colombians 3-2 up before Henderson…No! Missed! Not again?! Not again. Mateus Uribe hits the bar and Kieran Trippier gets England back on level terms. Then Carlos Bacca steps up. He looks nervous. He is nervous. Jordan Pickford. A huge left-hand. Could it be?? That all depends on what Eric Dier does next. To the keeper’s left. Straight into the net. “England win a World Cup penalty shoot-out for the first time ever!”⠀

Strangers hugged strangers. Pints flew. Maguire and Stones taunted their beaten opponents as they ran to celebrate. At a normal moment in time, they’d have been branded brash and unsporting. But this wasn’t a normal moment in time. Because the Colombians had kicked the boys, our boys, all night long. Because England had overcome their penalty curse. Because good guy Gareth finally had closure. And, as we sang so in the streets, because it looked like football might finally be coming home.

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