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A Christmas Cracker: Reliving England’s First Ever World Cup Penalty Shootout Win

The best moment of the year...
The best moment of the year...

Merry Christmas one and all and to celebrate here at the Sportsman we are looking back at some of our favourite moments of 2018. Here’s my pitch for why England beating Colombia on penalties was simply the greatest moment of the whole year and indeed my entire life.

Gareth Southgate won the nation’s hearts this summer and his incredible waistcoat was the perfect symbol of the best summer of our lives. Before the tournament England’s expectations were rock-bottom but with the guidance of the lord and saviour, Sir Gareth Southgate, he lead England to their best World Cup finish since 1990.

Heading into the round of 16 game there was an odd feeling around the country. Having made it through the group, minimum expectations had been met and now anything else was a bonus, having said that England were outplayed by Belgium to finish second in the group.

Colombia had improved as the tournament had gone on and they would provide a tough test for the Three Lions as they looked to win their first knockout game at an international tournament since 2006. Things looked good after Harry Kane opened the scoring from the spot and England put in an excellent display but in the 90th minute, hearts were broken.

After a wonderful save by Jordan Pickford, England thought they had held on for the win. But Yerry Mina rose highest from the resulting corner to nod home past the jump of Kieran Trippier. Extra-time it was and England could not quite gain their focus, although they did improve towards the end of the 30 minute period they could not find a winner. Penalties.

Everybody in Shooters Manchester was fearing the worst, given England’s horrendous penalty record. Southgate motivated his troops but we’d seen it all before, we knew how it was going to end and it was only a matter of time before the drunkenness was replaced with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment.

Colombia chose take first and Radamel Falcao stepped up. Wham, straight down the middle past an outstretched Jordan Pickford. Here we go again.

Harry Kane stepped up first for England and funnily enough, I have never been more confident of an England player scoring a penalty. He’s just got something about him has our ‘Arry. Confident, calm, and clinical. His shot nestled in the corner, past David Ospina and we were level.

Juan Cuadrado came up for Colombia a struck the ball cleanly into the top corner. They were firing away the penalties just like the Germans and it seemed inevitable that we would miss. Next up for England was Marcus Rashford. Young, inexperienced, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him take a penalty in my life and the nerves were jangling. His penalty into the same corner as Kane’s brought momentary relief.

Then Luis Muriel came up for Colombia. Him sending Pickford the wrong way put me at a new low in my belief levels. Pickford got nowhere near this one and England were 3-2 down, the pressure heaped on the next taker. Jordan Henderson came up next and it seemed so likely he would be England’s scapegoat even before he hit the ball. A much-maligned Liverpool man who has often been criticised for his performances for England. The inevitable happened. Ospina went the right way and saved Henderson’s spot kick. England were heading out of the World Cup, this young team with so much promise were going to follow the same path as so many England sides before them. I sunk to my haunches in disbelief.

It had happened again.

Mateus Uribe came forward for Colombia to put one of the final nails into England’s coffin. He looked supremely confident as Pickford shook the bar attempting to put him off. He ran up to the ball and thumped it towards the top corner but incredibly it came back off the bar! Colombia had missed as well!

Up came Kieran Trippier to put Southgate’s boys level and once again, just like with Kane I was supremely confident. England’s best striker of the ball whipped it into the top corner and we were back level, belief flowed through the packed underground bar in Manchester.

Carlos Bacca then came up and by this point Pickford looked ready to make his name. We may have only been level but the momentum was with us and we were positive. As Bacca stepped up Pickford made his leap and amazingly pulled off a save sending the pub wild. Scenes, the win was so close.

Nobody got carried away however as we all knew the win was not guaranteed. Eric Dier’s walk to the penalty spot took an age as he placed the ball on the spot. Memories of ‘Gareth Southgate the whole of England is with you’ rang around my head as the whistle went and Dier ran up.

In slow-motion it seemed, Dier struck the worst penalty of the lot, scuffing the ball towards the goal as Ospina guessed the right way. Somehow it beat the Colombian keeper and England went wild. ‘England are World Cup quarter-finalists again and they’ve done it on penalties!’ screamed the commentator.

I have never experienced such utter joy in football before. The relief, the joy, the unexpected delirium that followed in the next few minutes was simply unbelievable. All the classic England tunes came on in the pub and the atmosphere was incredible.

We spilled out onto the streets outside the Printworks, singing Southgate’s name whilst people climbed up onto lamp-posts and windowsills. I thought I would never see celebratory scenes like this for England but here we were. Every man and woman in the street was partying, chanting, drinking and the feel-good factor is something I am not sure I will ever experience again.

Thank you Gareth Southgate, Jordan Pickford, Eric Dier and all the others for the best summer of my life.

You can watch the official game highlights here.

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