Is football coming home to England? Don’t bet against it

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    Has the world gone topsy-turvy? After winning a penalty shootout for the first time since Euro 96, England may never have a better chance of winning another World Cup.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – even before England’s gripping 4-3 win on penalties over Colombia, this has been one of the most entertaining World Cups in recent memory.

    Croatia arguably started the trend against Denmark when Luka Modric saw his extra-time penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel – who was a mile off his goal-line – only for Modric to show nerves of steel to convert his spot kick during the shootout.

    And England showed remarkable fortitude to shake off a stoppage-time Colombian equaliser that threatened to derail their World Cup campaign, as the scores finished locked at 1-1 after extra-time.

    It’s been a tournament full of penalties, and having already conceded one against Japan, Colombian defender Carlos Sanchez made it a tournament to forget by hauling down Harry Kane inside the box.

    Kane, of course, stepped up to smash home from the penalty spot – and that looked like being enough to send England through to the quarter-finals.

    Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier and Jamie Vardy celebrate for England.

    (Photo: Sefa Karacan/Getty Images)

    But no one told Yerry Mina.

    Jordan Pickford’s save from Mateus Uribe’s thunderbolt was one of the saves of the tournament, however it looked like Kieran Trippier got in his way on the post when Mina’s thumping header bounced down and over Pickford’s outstretched hand deep in stoppage time.

    Even then, substitute Danny Rose almost won it for England in extra-time when his angled low drive rolled agonisingly across the face of goal.

    And if things had stuck to the script, we would now be talking about another penalty shootout defeat for England.

    But this World Cup has been full of surprises. None more so than Pickford, who has made the number one jersey his own with some superb individual displays.

    His one-handed save from Carlos Bacca was reminiscent of Mark Schwarzer’s save from Marcelo Zalayeta against Uruguay in Homebush, and Pickford could yet prove a pivotal player for England in the quarter-finals.

    Has football changed since Euro 96? You bet it has.

    How fitting, then, that a player who started his professional career at Portuguese giants Sporting, and who could have represented Portugal internationally, stepped up to win the game for England.

    Eric Dier only moved to Portugal because his mother was working at Euro 2004, but despite having spent his formative years in Lisbon, the hulking defensive midfielder epitomises the very best of the Three Lions.

    His penalty was never going to miss. They may have done it the hard way, but England are in the last eight of the World Cup.

    So where to from here? They face Sweden next, and judging by their workmen-like 1-0 win over Switzerland in their Round of 16 encounter, the Swedes hold nothing to fear.

    And then it’s potentially Croatia – provided they overcome surprise package Russia – and a reunion of sorts with Modric.

    Croatia’s dynamic playmaker possesses enough talent to beat England on his own. And don’t they know it, given that Modric played more than 120 games in the English Premier League for Tottenham.

    But if the complaint has been that the English Premier League is too packed with foreign talent for England’s national team to succeed – and it’s been a valid criticism in the past – then maybe Gareth Southgate’s side will be the one to change that perception.

    Aside from their three goalkeepers, England’s squad is packed with players from the Premier League’s biggest clubs.

    Are they getting used to that winning feeling?

    England have been the punchline to so many jokes in the past that their transformation from loudmouth underachievers to plucky underdogs is never going to appeal to all.

    But – whisper it quietly – could football be coming home after all? You wouldn’t put it past this crazy World Cup.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist since December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (102)

    • July 4th 2018 @ 10:35am
      13th Man said | July 4th 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

      Gripping game and yes it may well be coming home. England showed incredible heart where in the past they may have fallen apart. Full credit to Colombia but England were the better side just had a lapse.
      They play Sweden and then either Croatia or Russia! Never has there been a better chance to at least make the final!

    • Roar Guru

      July 4th 2018 @ 10:43am
      Ben of Phnom Penh said | July 4th 2018 @ 10:43am | ! Report

      The quarter final will be an interesting clash as the Swedes play extremely pragmatic football and are proud of it. That’s the Swedish way, and it seems to work for them.

      • July 4th 2018 @ 3:52pm
        Fadida said | July 4th 2018 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

        They are a disgrace Ben. They should be “going for it”, “all out attack”! Who cares if they are winning and progressing despite being limited in talent? (tongue in cheek of course)

    • July 4th 2018 @ 10:50am
      Lionheart said | July 4th 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

      England will have to score from open play to make that happen Mike, and of course they do have players who can do that, but will they?
      The World Cup’s exciting, I agree with you there and I think it’s the first time where I’ve been able to take it all in. But just let me say about these heroics from the goalkeepers like Pickford’s, that we A League fans have been treated to this all last season by Jamie Young at Roar and Lawrence Thomas at Victory. I was thinking when Pickford stepped up for the penalties, that could well be Jamie Young (who did play for England age team).

      • Roar Guru

        July 4th 2018 @ 10:54am
        Ben of Phnom Penh said | July 4th 2018 @ 10:54am | ! Report

        It certainly has been a World Cup for the keepers. The Schmeichel-Subasic showdown was quite something and Cho Hyun-woo for Korea was so good the neutrals in the crowd I was in were all speculating as to where in Europe he’d be after the tournament.

        • July 4th 2018 @ 11:01pm
          Redondo said | July 4th 2018 @ 11:01pm | ! Report

          Akinfeev vs Spain was pretty special too. The foot save on the penalty was magic.

    • July 4th 2018 @ 10:52am
      Midfielder said | July 4th 2018 @ 10:52am | ! Report

      Great WC, and me thinks any of the remaining teams could win.

    • July 4th 2018 @ 10:59am
      AGO74 said | July 4th 2018 @ 10:59am | ! Report

      Great match. England were very strong in the 1st half but ultimately had little to show for it.

      The theatrics and hysterics of Colombia annoyed me – especially because when they actually played football in the last 25 minutes they were great and had England rocking. The equaliser was probably deserved.

      As much as it is funny to laugh at England penalty shoot out failures over the years it was good to see them finally get one up on an opponent.

      This has been a wildly entertaining tournament with so much late late drama in matches and best of all there’s more to come. When one of England, Croatia, Sweden or Russia is assured a spot in the final, honestly who knows what’s to come? Can’t wait to watch it unfold.

    • July 4th 2018 @ 11:06am
      Fadida said | July 4th 2018 @ 11:06am | ! Report

      I actually thought England were very very average. Did they create a single chance? Plenty of possession in the back 3rd but little cohesion or creativity in the front 3rd.

      Had they gone out on penalties I think they’d have got a lot of criticism for that performance.

      • Roar Guru

        July 4th 2018 @ 12:31pm
        Chris Kettlewell said | July 4th 2018 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

        Yeah, I must admit I was thinking something similar. Looking at the draw now, this half is really open, none of those teams would have been among most people’s predictions to do anything much going into the tournament. But one of Russia, Croatia, England and Sweden is going to be in the final. I don’t know that Sweden has looked any better than England, so they have every chance of getting through there.

        But from what’s happened in this match, they didn’t really show much. It was a poor penalty. Kane was never getting to the ball, he’d made himself stumble as he pushed away from the defender in the first place, it was dumb for the guy to hug him and tackle him to the ground like that. Without that, England really didn’t have much. Neither team showed much, the ball seemed stuck in midfield, the ball got given away lots. It’s hard to see them getting past Brazil, Belgium, France or Uruguay based on this performance. They’ve smashed the two weak teams in their group, had a meaningless game against Belgium (two second eleven’s basically, so can’t take much from it), and not looked great here.

        But this is football, so anything can happen. Certainly can’t write them off. But based on the form to this point, I would probably rank them about 6th of the 8 teams remaining. However, with four of those 5 I’d rank ahead of them being in the other side of the draw, this is their best chance in a long time to at least reach the final. And if they get there, anything is possible.

        • July 4th 2018 @ 3:57pm
          Fadida said | July 4th 2018 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

          You can’t write them off Chris, simply because so many of the teams that would have showed England scant respect are out.

          Colombia foolishly sat back in the first half. When they went after england they created numerous half chances.

          That football might be “coming home” based in a penalty shoot out success though is tenuous. The cards are falling in their favour though, and as long as they keeping getting plenty of penalties and corners they will keep progressing.

          • Roar Guru

            July 5th 2018 @ 12:12pm
            Chris Kettlewell said | July 5th 2018 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

            You can’t write anyone off in Football. I’ve said a number of times talking to people about this world cup, that looking at the knockout draw, it really looks like a strong half and a weak half, but then, all the teams in the “weak half” basically got there because they managed to finish ahead of the supposedly stronger teams in their groups. If Mexico and Korea can beat Germany, you certainly can’t rule out England, Sweden, Russia or Croatia, and one of those four is going to make the final. Once they are there anything is possible.

            Looking back on footage of the England v Columbia game, I must admit it does look like Kane is an expert at milking penalties. Pretty sure he actually had hold of the defenders arm in a way that was hard for the referee to see, and basically dragged him down on top of him. I think once he released the arm, the defender could have got away from him a bit more and not ridden him like a pony to the ground, and he probably needed to start in a position that didn’t make it easy for Kane to do that. But the more I look at it, the more it looked like it was really Kane who initiated the whole thing.

        • July 4th 2018 @ 11:46pm
          Neil Back said | July 4th 2018 @ 11:46pm | ! Report

          Interesting to see you sucking English lemons in more than one sport Chris

          • Roar Guru

            July 5th 2018 @ 12:22pm
            Chris Kettlewell said | July 5th 2018 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

            No idea what you are talking about Neil. I certainly have nothing against England. Just pointing out that their performance in the round of 16 makes them probably on of the less impressive looking of the remaining 8 teams. So it’s a bit premature to talk of England winning it yet, though, as pointed out, anything can happen in football.

            And it’s certainly possible they can improve their performances. Italy barely scraped past the Socceroos in the round of 16, taking a stoppage time penalty to finally bring the first and only goal of the game, but then they went on to win the tournament. So just scraping through in a scratchy round of 16 game is certainly not a signal that they can’t do it. And with Sweden their next opponent, and either Croatia or Russia in the semi-final, it’s their best chance to reach the final for a long time!

            • July 5th 2018 @ 4:44pm
              Neil Back said | July 5th 2018 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

              It’s quite simple Chris; it’s a constant theme of yours concerning anything English it seems. Lets be kind and assume you’re unaware of it.

              Take your view of this penalty award. As they line up, Sanchez has both arms either side of Kane’s waist obstructing a clear run. That is illegal and he’s already been warned by the ref. The fact Kane has likewise is irrelevant unless Sanchez attempts a run – he doesn’t. This is key.

              As the ball is delivered, Kane and Sanchez wrestle each other. It’s the same push and shove that happens at that instant nine times out of ten between a defender man marking an attacker. The difference here is that Sanchez stays engaged and embellishes by putting his shoulder into Kane’s midriff as he tracks him. Bad enough as continued illegal blocking but he then rounds him to end up on top of Kane as he fights to keep his feet – also important as he’s not going down like a sack of proverbial at the slightest contact (as someone milking penalties might). That, my friend, is a clear penalty. To claim Kane instigated it is, as I’ve pointed out, typical of you.

              Further, I can say with almost one hundred percent certainty, if English players had surrounded the ref for a full three and a half minutes, you would have been all over it with indignation. If during that time English players were also in the ear of the elected penalty taker, hounding him as he tried to walk away, you would have been all over it with indignation. If during that time an English player went gardening on the penalty spot as Mojica did, you would have been all over it with indignation.

              But no. Your focus is your belief Kane is an expert at milking penalties, rather than the blindingly obvious cheating, thuggery and gamesmanship of the Colombians throughout the match, the penalty award being a barely adequate consequence.

              Clear?

              • July 7th 2018 @ 11:54am
                Bo said | July 7th 2018 @ 11:54am | ! Report

                Beautifully put Neil.

              • Roar Guru

                July 10th 2018 @ 10:47am
                Chris Kettlewell said | July 10th 2018 @ 10:47am | ! Report

                My initial reaction was that it was pretty dumb of the defender to do what he did. Pretty clear penalty. Just when looking over the replay more times it seriously looked like Kane actually had hold of the defenders arm at the start of the movement and was pulling on him. The fact that the defender started out just about hugging him which gave him the chance to do that is entirely on the defender. What’s wrong with observing that. I wasn’t doing an overall review of the match as a whole.

                I’d actually be quite happy to see England do well here. But pointing out that it might be good to keep the excitement on hold a little because they haven’t actually been the most impressive team at the world cup so far is a reasonable observation.

                I think you have got such a defensive mindset of anything English that you instantly look at anyone who’s trying to critically analyse things as attacking England. But it’s just not true.

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