Coming into the knockout rounds, everything was lined up perfectly for England to make their deepest World Cup run in generations. Naturally, this set a countervailing force in motion, one that would see England do what they always do and choke in hilariously heartbreaking fashion. During today’s England-Colombia match, these two competing forces battled it out for supremacy, and just when it looked like the Brits would succumb to the powers of failure, they somehow resisted and won—in a penalty shootout no less.
The match itself was bad, but mostly the good kind of bad. Both teams played pretty open for the majority of the game, but neither attack could create many high-quality scoring opportunities. This was mostly down to Colombia’s strategy of playing a good seven defense-first players and just three attackers; Colombia were too steely (and fouly) at the back to give up much room for England’s creators to do any real damage, and those same defensive-minded players were too limited going the other direction to get the ball to and support their own creative guys. For the first hour or so, this resulted in an intense but sort of ugly environment with more hard fouls, lung-busting runs, and elaborate dives than pretty passing moves.
It wasn’t a surprise then that neither of the two goals that came in regulation were from open play. Scoring started when Harry Kane won and converted a penalty in the 57th minute to give England the lead. That goal inspired Colombia to play more aggressively, which thankfully livened up the proceedings. However, it looked like England would weather the storm and beat what on paper would be their toughest opponents until the semifinal until Yerry Mina and his goal-magnet of a forehead nodded in an equalizer from a corner late in stoppage time.
That goal sent the match to extra time, and from there a penalty shootout felt almost certain. As all soccer lovers know, England are notoriously awful at penalties at the World Cup, having lost all three of their previous shootouts in their tournament history. Colombia had the advantage this time around by going first, and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson’s miss in the third round made it feel practically certain that the evil gods of comedy and schadenfreude would prevail and ruin England’s golden World Cup opportunity.
However, Mateus Uribe followed Hendo’s penalty with a miss of his own. Kiran Trippier went next and scored his kick, then England keeper Jordan Pickford saved Carlos Bacca’s attempt, and Eric Dier won it for the Three Lions by converting the final spot kick of the shootout:
A monumental relief for the Brits, to be sure. Next up for England will be Sweden, who should be even bigger underdogs than Colombia were. It’s going to be so good doing this all over again on Saturday.