News ID: 217771
Published: 0252 GMT July 04, 2018

England finds new calmness to banish hoodoo

England finds new calmness to banish hoodoo
England’s goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saves Colombia’s fifth penalty by Carlos Bacca during his team’s victory at the 2018 World Cup in Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia, on July 3, 2018.
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As captain Harry Kane walked away from the celebrating England fans after his team’s heart-stopping World Cup penalty shootout win over Colombia on Tuesday he looked so relaxed he could have been strolling to the corner shop for a bottle of milk.

Then it all dawned on him.

Kane’s face broke, his eyes closed shut in total relief and he looked to the heavens, mouthing his gratitude for the end of his team’s horrendous run of defeats in major tournament shootouts, Reuters reported.

The skipper and his teammates had kept their cool when it mattered most – for 120 minutes of a tense and tetchy game played at a Spartak Stadium which resembled Bogota, given the dominance of Colombia’s passionate supporters.

England, none more so than Kane who had put his side in the lead from the penalty spot in the 57th minute, held its nerve at the decisive turning points in an intense match, showing an unexpected maturity for the youngest team left in the tournament.

The English players avoided losing their heads during moments of provocation from the Colombians and periods when American referee Mark Geiger lost control of the game. Crucially, they were able to stand up and fight on after the punch in the gut that came with Yerry Mina’s stoppage-time equalizer.

And then, facing the shootout test that has proved too much for England teams for so long, they kept their emotions in check, put history out of mind and focused on the task in hand.

The history weighed heavily — England had the worst senior shootout record in world football, losing on penalties in World Cups in 1990, 1998 and 2006, and at the European Championship in 1996, 2004 and 2012. All that had to be banished from their minds.

 

Quiet confidence

 

England manager Gareth Southgate deserves a large share of the credit for the breaking of the hoodoo. Since March, the man who missed the decisive kick in the Euro 96 semifinal against Germany, has made sure his team prepared for this very outcome.

The 47-year-old has been smart enough to realize that while pundits may dismiss the shootout as a lottery, it is in fact a supreme test of nerve and skill.

Southgate knew that practice could only help, that preparing his players technically and psychologically for the moment was an investment of time and resources that might be rewarded.

And so it proved.

England can now look forward to a quarterfinal against Sweden with the curse of the shootout lifted.

This really is a different England team. Not only have they lost the fear and tendency to panic which have cut short previous campaigns, they also have acquired something else that has always been present in their more successful rivals – Germany, Italy, Spain and Argentina, in particular.

England showed shrewdness, sharp-wittedness and cold calculation to ensure the referee was aware of every push, shove and pull inside the area until he finally awarded a penalty when Kane tumbled under a challenge.

 “We are getting smarter, and maybe played by the same rules as the rest of the world,” Southgate said.

“But we kept our dignity and our sportsmanship and if we were down it was because we were fouled. I am proud of the discipline,” he said.

They played like veterans, men rather than boys. A young team whose natural confidence and positivity has been nurtured rather than curtailed by its manager.

 

'Diernamite!'

 

"Just Diernamite!" screamed The Sun after Eric Dier ended England's penalty hoodoo in Russia, slotting home the decisive spot-kick to beat Colombia, AFP reported.

A bare-chested, grinning Dier was labeled the "Coolest Man in Moscow" by the Daily Mail, who added with a touch of hyperbole: "The explosion of relief must have been heard in space."

The Daily Mirror hailed, "Justice as Lions win do-or-Dier shootout" following the 4-3 win on spot-kicks in Moscow.

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford earned rave reviews, with the Sun hailing the "Hand of Jord", harking back to Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" incident in 1986, when the Argentine put the ball into the net with his hand.

The Times announced drily, "Souvenir edition – commemorating an England penalty shootout win."

Looking ahead to Saturday's quarterfinal with Sweden in Samara, the media do not appear to have heeded Southgate's claim that England has underestimated the Swedes for years.

"Sweden are like watching bad old England. There is... Nothing to Fear," trumpeted the Daily Mail.

The Sun believes the shine of beating Colombia will be well and truly taken off should England slip up against the Swedes.

"Fors is Strong... Swedes have no stars...Three Lions shouldn't make Emil of it," said the Sun, referring to goalscorer Emil Forsberg, whose strike earned a 1-0 win against Switzerland.

"If Gareth Southgate's team cannot take care of this lot in the quarterfinals, they probably should not bother coming home."

 

 

   
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