I make no apology for writing a post that has nothing to do with double glazing.

Last night England finally put their penalty shootout curse to rest with an intense 4-3 penalties victory over Columbia. In true England style, it was a game of hope, despair, frustration, anguish and eventually, pure elation. I sincerely hope not to go through the ringer like that again any time soon.

England totally deserving

Before the start of the tournament expectations of the England team were about as low as I had ever seen them. To get out of the group would have been considered an achievement when you take into consideration how poor England had performed in the last few international tournaments.

Then we saw what this very young and inexperienced team might be capable of. A tense 2-1 victory of Tunisia was the start. The first half hour of that game felt as though we were watching someone other than England. This was a team that could play the ball out from the back, keep possession, and finish off a game by actually sticking to the plan at hand.

The game against Panama threatened to turn into a cricket score. The key point for me out of this game was we were able to put the weaker team to the sword quickly. Something we almost always fail to do. Panama were terrible also, resulting to rugby tackles and wrestling moves on Harry Kane instead of actually trying to play football.

The Belgium game was just weird. Neither team really wanted to win that one. Both put weak squads out. England never really chased for an equaliser and Belgium didn’t want a second. We can write that game off.

Then came Columbia. A team I knew wouldn’t be a pushover, despite some saying we were clear favourites. Anyone thinking this would be a free-flowing game was always going to be disappointed. Knock-out football is always cagey. I thought though that for 85 of the regular minutes England were in firm control. We kept the ball well, controlled the defence and midfield and totally blunted any attack Columbia thought about launching. Because of that, they had to resort to what I can only describe as child-like tactics that wouldn’t even be seen in Sunday League football. Tantrums in front of the ref, who struggled to control the game at times. Utterly ridiculous tackling which resorted in so many yellow cards that I lost count. I personally thought Columbia should have been reduced to 9 men, but somehow they managed to retain a full squad.

It was only in the last few minutes where England played far too deep and invited Columbia to attack that we started to look like the old England. A staggering shot and equally staggering save from Jordan Pickford was the sign of things to come, as the resulting corner saw Columbia level the game. From there it had penalties written all over it. You could feel it descend over us like a dark cloud. That dreaded p-word.

Penalties came, and when Jordan Henderson’s shot was saved, I was already admitting defeat. I knew where this was going. Then, Columbia’s penalty hit the bar. Cue me jumping around the room like a moron. Then Trippier scored his penalty. I couldn’t watch that one, I was in the kitchen with my head in my hands. All level. Then Pickford made an incredible save. Strong hands, palming the ball away as he was diving to his right. Stunning effort. All that was left was for a no doubt nervous Dier to slot his shot home to end our dreadful run of shootout losses.

Boom. In it goes, up I go with my mate, hugging him as though we had won the World Cup and the lottery at the same time. All that frustration, anguish, fear and dread released in seconds. We had actually won a penalty shootout in a World Cup. I still don’t believe it even as I type these words. Unbelievable Jeff, as the saying goes.

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Columbia deserved nothing

Maradona has said Coumbia were robbed. Portuguese Ronaldo has accused England of diving. Yeah I know, Ronaldo of all people. Yet, the fact of the matter is Columbia resorted to thuggery unlike anything I have seen at a level like this for many years. There was no attempt at proper football, just attempts to draw England into arguments, fights and injuries.

Then there was that yellow card that should have been a red, as Barrio (I think) headbutted Henderson with the back of his head into his chest and then up into his chin. Yes Henderson made the most of it, but, as the rules state, that would be classed as violent conduct and constituted a straight red. The ref got it wrong, VAR got it wrong. From then, Columbia knew they could get away with it, and so continued to goad England with appalling tactics all night long. On the most part we kept our cool and just about in the end the right result was achieved.

But, if Columbia had have come out on top, it would have been a cruel injustice. We kept our heads, respect and dignity. Didn’t hound the ref for minutes at a time when we got handed a decision we didn’t like. We didn’t scuff the penalty spot up by digging our studs into the turf. We just got on with it.

Columbia, along with the idiotic antics of Neymar is what is ruining top class football. Other team sports, like rugby, cricket, NFL, must look upon football and laugh. It has to be stamped out and quickly. These players get paid far too much to be rolling around on the floor when a slight breeze rolls by.

Putting that aside, England have surpassed the expectations of most, and for that, they have already done well in my eyes. They have all, including the gent that is Gareth Southgate, conducted themselves very well, and have managed to get the general public and media back on their side. Anything extra from here is an amazing bonus.

On Saturday afternoon we play Sweden in the quarters. Then it’s either Russia or Croatia in the semis should we make it there. At this World Cup, these are beatable teams. Could it come home? Just could it?

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