Gareth Southgate said he always knew England would prevail in their World Cup last-16 game against Colombia, even after they went behind in the penalty shootout. “It was a night I knew we’d get over the line,” the England coach said. “We had the resilience and belief to get over the line, whatever it would take.”
Not many England fans did, to be honest, from the moment Yerry Mina headed Colombia level in the third minute of injury-time to the moment Jordan Henderson’s penalty was saved by David Ospina to give Colombia the edge in the shootout. But Southgate kept faith, and was rewarded when Jordan Pickford saved from Carlos Bacca and Eric Dier put England into the quarter-finals.
“I’ve seen enough shootouts to know that often the first miss isn’t the key one,” Southgate said. “I believed our goalkeeper would save one, and the technique of our players in taking them was superb. I have to credit a big support team who have done a lot of work in that area over the last few months. It’s credit to them as well.”
Pickford offered an insight into the research that had gone into England’s penalty preparation with goalkeeping coach Martyn Margetson. “I had a fair feeling,” he said. “Falcao was really the only one who didn’t go ‘his’ way. But it’s set, react and go. I don’t care if I’m not the biggest keeper, I’ve got that power and agility to get around the goal. We knew we had this game.”
And so: where can England go next? Southgate, for his part, was not prepared to look beyond the quarter-final against Sweden in Samara on Saturday, for which England will have less than four days to recover. “It’s like a scene from M*A*S*H in that dressing room,” he joked. “Some from cramp, and others needing assessment. We’ll know more in the next 36 hours.
“I’m already thinking about the next game. Sweden are a team I respect hugely. We’ve always underestimated them, but we don’t have a good record against them. They have a plan and a clear way of playing, and it’s bloody difficult to play against. They’re greater than the sum of their parts.”
For England’s goalscorer Harry Kane, now on six goals at this World Cup, the manner of England’s victory will set them up for the rest of the tournament. “It’ll give us huge belief,” he said. “Can we qualify through the group? Yes, we did that quite comfortably. Then can we win a knockout game? Can we win a shootout? We’ve ticked those boxes. This will give us more belief than ever, and the fans more belief than ever back home.”
The last word, however, should go to Southgate, who despite masterminding England’s first tournament knockout win for 12 years and their first penalty shootout win in 22, was keen to deflect the praise onto his players. “They have created their own story and made history,” he said. “I don’t want to go home yet.”
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