FINALLY, England caught a break in a penalty shoot-out and now they can realistically think about a semi-final place in the World Cup finals. It’s that kind of tournament.
For a long part of this game England had to be no more than organised to stay in control of the game. Colombia offered nothing in attack and allowed Harry Maguire and John Stones to play the ball out of their own area without pressure.
In contrast, England could do nothing to break them down and while they had plenty of energy and enthusiasm, they had nobody to link things up.
I wonder was Jack Wilshere sitting watching this somewhere because if life had spun differently for him, he is the type of player Southgate so badly needs.
To be fair, Southgate is not alone. There are fewer and fewer midfield wizards as every year goes by and the England boss decided before the tournament started that he was going to borrow a leaf from Jurgen Klopp’s book and take and all or nothing approach.
At least Klopp has some midfielders. Southgate only had Jordan Henderson. He couldn’t bring Wilshere because he couldn’t rely on him but neither Dele Alli nor Jesse Lingard are able to do what he does.
The breakthrough for England came as a result of a set-piece, not surprisingly. Harry Kane was rugby tackled in the box right in front of the referee and we had to wait an age for the match to get going again because the Colombian players lost the plot.
I have to laugh at people who complain about VAR slowing the game down when I see something like this.
It took a good three minutes to clear all the Colombian complainers back behind the line so that Kane could slot the ball home. A few more yellow cards would have sorted that out quickly.
It really looked that Colombia would fall apart completely after that. Barrios was rattling around the pitch like an unguided missile. He was lucky to be on the pitch at all after using his head on Henderson.
With nothing to lose Colombia began to play although England seemed to have everything under control until the clock ticked into injury time and Uribe cut loose from 40 yards, Pickford tipped it for a corner and Mina drove a header into the ground and into the net.
Colombia looked more likely to settle it in extra-time and I even gave them the edge before the penalty shoot-out started.
I’m not so sure about everything I’ve read about England’s penalty preparations. It never works out the way you think but if Southgate’s way meant that his players took the confidence they showed from it, it was certainly worth doing.
Judging by the way the tournament is unfolding, they may need to take a few more.