There will always be a first time – and what a time to be an England supporter.
England finally lifted their curse of penalty shootouts by winning their first shootout in a World Cup. Besides, it was their first win in a shootout since the Euro’96 win against Spain.
The Three Lions progressed into the last Eight of the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a 4-3 penalty shootout win over Colombia in Moscow.
What a feeling that must have erupted in the players! A squad who average fewer than 20 caps per player and lack the star status of the dubbed ‘golden generation’ of Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard and Scholes.
The current set has new heroes though, Harry Kane had become the first England player to score a hat trick at the World Cup since 1966 even as Jordan Pickford also became the first England goalkeeper to save a penalty in penalty shootout at a major tournament since David Seaman at World Cup 1998 against Argentina.
It was no mistake. Even though their play looked a bit tepid and particularly lacked creativity, England ultimately deserved a win in open play. Having led through Kane’s penalty, a 93rd minute header by Yerry Mina stretched the game into extra thirty minutes.
That sure made the game perfect.
Perhaps it was England’s first real test in Russia, having made light works out of the group stages. No doubt, it lived up to the billing by bringing out the good, the bad and the ugly face of the team.
From Jordan Pickford to Harry Maguire, Kevin Tripper and Harry Kane; there are some positives, but still there are concerns.
The bunch of pacy and forward-thinking players upfront did little to create scoring chances. They failed to turn in half chances and even the inch of perfection from set-pieces has dropped.
Sweden, who they will play in the quarterfinals on Saturday are no less than any other well-drilled opposition left in the tournament.
If they don’t really want to go home yet, there’s a need to quickly log out of the social media, pay attention to these areas and face the next task early. – they can trust their ex-players and their media to keep the Internet busy any day anytime.
It might seem far away, but it could be coming home still for the English.