England booked their quarter-final date with Sweden by overcoming Colombia in dramatic fashion on Tuesday night.
After 120 minutes of football couldn’t separate the two sides, it came down to a penalty shoot-out and remarkably, England made it through.
Here are five things we took away from a mad night in Moscow …
England won a penalty shoot-out!
Okay, it’s not a conclusion as such, but it’s still hard to believe this match was decided by a penalty shoot-out, and England actually won.
Euro ’96 (against Spain) was the last time England came out on top in a penalty shoot-out at a major tournament, and this is the first time they’ve ever done so at a World Cup.
So does this mean the Three Lions have finally put 52 years of hurt behind them? Maybe not, but it has to be considered a step in the right direction mentality-wise.
And after his very own penalty heartache at that ’96 tournament, how sweet it must have been for Gareth Southgate to see his team prevail on this occasion.
Props to Jordan Pickford for a truly world class save to deny Carlos Bacca, by the way.
Wílmar Barrios should have been sent off
It feels like it happened about four years ago now, but after he clearly aimed a head-butt at Jordan Henderson in the dying stages of the first half, Colombian defender Wílmar Barrios should have walked.
American referee Mark Geiger, who is a school mathematics teacher by trade, took a moment to sort out the ensuing melee before dipping into his pocket and flashing a yellow card.
“A player is guilty of violent conduct if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball.”
That’s from FIFA’s official laws of the game, and if what Barrios did isn’t violent conduct, then what is it?
It may not have been the most forceful head-butt the world has ever seen, and Henderson definitely overreacted by dropping to the floor clutching his face, but neither of those things should be a factor in the referee’s decision making.
One of the best things about the implementation of VAR at this tournament is that it appears to have given referees more courage in their conviction but we’re afraid to say that, on this occasion, Geiger bottled it.
Then again, John Stones can perhaps consider himself quite fortunate to have escaped punishment for catching Falcao on the head with his boot in the second half.
Swings and roundabouts.
England need to improve in attacking areas
This was a decent performance from England, but not a great one.
For the most part, Colombia allowed their opponents to dominate possession but England created little by way of chances, and finished the 120 minutes with just two attempts on target.
In the quarter-final, they will come up against a stubborn Swedish rearguard which has shipped just two goals at the tournament so far (both against Germany) and England’s attacking players need to do a bit more.
Harry Kane is a brilliant finisher but he contributes little else to the build-up play, while Raheem Sterling is a risk-taker but one who often takes unnecessary risks and ends up losing the ball in the process.
Jesse Lingard has impressed greatly this summer but his end product sometimes leaves a lot to be desired, and though we can forgive him for perhaps not being 100% fit, Dele Alli was again borderline anonymous in this game.
The team which started this match is undoubtedly England’s best XI (with the only real question mark being Ashley Young’s deployment at left-back) but there’s a great deal of room for improvement, and they are going to have to unlock some of it if they’re to get past Sweden and go deeper into this tournament.
They played with fire by failing to kill this game off at 1-0 and next time, they might get burnt.