England ‘don’t want to conform to what’s gone before’

Gareth Southgate says the team are making their own history at this year’s World Cup

England players celebrate after beating Colombia in a penalty shootout in their 2018 World Cup last 16 clash at the Spartak Stadium. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

England players celebrate after beating Colombia in a penalty shootout in their 2018 World Cup last 16 clash at the Spartak Stadium. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire

 

Gareth Southgate praised his young team for creating “their own history” after England triumphed in a penalty shootout for the first time at the World Cup and secured passage into a quarter-final against Sweden on Saturday at the expense of Colombia.

Jordan Pickford’s stunning left-handed save denied Carlos Bacca’s fifth attempt in the penalties – the first an England goalkeeper has mustered in a shootout since David Seaman in 1998 – with Eric Dier earning England a first knockout success in 12 years by converting his side’s last spot-kick. Sweden await in Samara but the tournament’s least experienced side will travel south with confidence considerably bolstered.

“For the belief of this group of players, and groups of players to come, it was a really important moment,” Southgate said. “Not just winning the shootout but having to suffer at the end of the game in a stadium that was five to one Colombian fans and felt like an away fixture. To come through all of that – we’ve spoken to the players about writing their own stories. Tonight they showed they don’t have to conform to what’s gone before. They have created their own history, and I don’t want to go home yet.

“Missing my penalty [At Euro 96]will never be ‘off my back’, sadly. That’s something that will live with me for ever. But today is a special moment for this team. It’ll hopefully give belief to the generations of players that will follow. We always have to believe in what is possible in life and not be hindered by history or expectations. These young players are showing that. I’m already thinking about Sweden, a team I respect hugely. We’ve always underestimated them, and we don’t have a good record against them, but they have a clear way of playing and it’s bloody difficult to play against. But what a game to look forward to.”

Southgate suggested the post-match dressing room had resembled “a scene from M*A*S*H” with Kyle Walker, Ashley Young and Jamie Vardy all nursing injuries, and Harry Kane suffering from cramp. They will be assessed back in Repino on Thursday as preparations begin for the quarter-final. While that is a concern, the management still departed heartened from the resilience and discipline displayed by his young team, not least in their reluctance to rise to Colombia’s provocation during the 120 minutes.

The referee, Mark Geiger, had struggled to retain control. José Pekerman, Colombia’s coach, suggested England had been guilty of as many offences as his own team, yet Southgate, whose side have been awarded three penalties in their four games, had spied a refreshingly streetwise approach from his men. “Maybe we’re getting a bit smarter,” he said. “Maybe we’re playing our game more by the rules the rest of the world are playing. But we kept our dignity and our sportsmanship, and if we were down it was because we were fouled.

“I thought there were many, many fouls in the game. I don’t think we conceded anywhere near the number as our opponents. But there we go. I’m proud of the discipline. I thought we kept our composure in a really difficult environment, and we deserved to win.

“We now move forward to a game that will really challenge us in a completely different way. We have fantastic supporters who’ve had to stand with us through decades of disappointment. I’m extremely proud that our team have made everyone in England very happy for tonight and the next few days. That’s a very special moment for us and our country.”

Kane, who became the first England player to score in six successive games since Tommy Lawton in 1939 after winning and converting a second-half spot-kick, pointed to the fillip such a dramatic win could have on the group. “We’d spoken a lot about being an inexperienced and young team, but we grew up a lot on that pitch,” he said. “There were mixed emotions, highs and lows, even in the penalty shootout. We were behind and wanting Jordan to save one, and he did. It showed our mentality. England haven’t done great in the past in that, but that’ll give us huge belief as a team moving forward now.

“We’ve ticked a lot of boxes here so far. Can we qualify through the group? Yes, we did that quite comfortably. Then can we win a knockout game? Can we win a shootout? This will give us more belief than ever, and the fans more belief than ever back home. We’re enjoying it, they’re enjoying it. We’re just looking forward to the next one.” – Guardian service

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