We won. On penalties. In the World Cup. My word, what a night and what a way to finally achieve redemption, sat watching it on the floor chewing on my heart with my t-shirt covering my face. Eyes just about seeing Eric Dier's spot kick and then proceeding to release 28 years or so of misery and dejection (12 if you wish to fixate on the quarter finals or 22 if you include Euro 96), screaming and punching the air. So many pen heartache. Mrs Spooky sat on the sofa telling me 'You're gonna wake up the kid' and me staring back and telling her 'I DON'T HAVE A KID, I HAVE ENGLAND'. Oh football, get into my veins. Quarter finals for the first time in 12 years. 'ave it.
Watching supporters lose their sh*t in pubs and clubs up and down the country, the sense of togetherness off and on the pitch. Man, this summer is buzzing. I don't want it to stop. Even if we're nowhere near being the most accomplished side left in the tournament. Or the fact we've yet to find a swaggering rhythm. Believing we can do it is the fuel that drives us forward - as a team and as a nation. This is football at its very best. Made up for Gareth Southgate vanquishing his personal pain from Euro 96. Made up for captain marvel Harry Kane and all of the lads. The Spurs boys playing their part in the penalty shoot-out. Jordan Pickford's wonderful save(s). Tripps making up for his err along with Dier feeling the responsibility of his missed header during extra-time to step up and take the deciding kick.
The mental fortitude. Jheee. To practically boss the game for 90 minutes and then concede in injury time and to then lose momentum for the next 15 minutes before the oh so ominous lottery...and still win. Balls of steel. Massive balls. Colombia did their best to get into our heads and rattle us with dirty tricks and sly fouls. They tried to incite and one or two players gently reacted but we didn't lose our heads. Perhaps if they (the team in yellow) attempted to play football they might have stood a better chance. Alas they choose to wind up 'weak England' and found themselves slapped proper. One of their technical coaches elbowing Sterling and their bench celebrating the game going to penalties is a thing of beauty in the aftermath of a victory. Still no idea how the ref and VAR consipired (or didn't) to dish out a yellow instead of a red card for the headbutt incident.
There was a sense of maturity and discipline that reminded me of Poch's Tottenham. Again, I'm not ignoring that after the first 20-30 minutes we sort of lost that impetus to press and pressure in the final third. As the game progressed there was less activity in how our front players interacted. The game was a congested mess of kicks and wrestles though. The game against Sweden might have a more expressive feel to it. Which could suit us if it shapes up like a Prem game.
Sterling is still a little lost in there (play him wider perhaps? Does a lot of unselfish work but not the ilk that we wish to see). Dele Alli isn't 100% but grafted and spent a lot of time deep and attracting the attention of the Colombians when he is far better suited playing off Harry Kane like he does at Spurs. John Stones and Harry Maguire were both magnificent. Henderson as reliable as ever (missed a penalty but it's now inconsequential). Pickford and that save from Uribe. Shout out to our boy Sanchez who played superbly well for them. Commiserations.
We need a plan B. We need to be more pro-active in how we game manage. We hardly had any shots on goal and Kane* was also coming deep to collect and play the ball rather than running into space. Again, at this level, at this stage - it's all easier said than done. I do feel like the game on Saturday is one where we have to elevate ourselves further. Easier said than done, right? Sweden are a team we don't have a great record against. The confidence and self belief we have right now shouldn't be wasted.
*Worth noting how great he was in this game. An almost near perfect performance if you take into account the games tempo. Led the team with practically no service. His penalty (for the 1-0) was again ice cool as was the one in the shoot out).
As others have also stated we have no true midfield conductor. The tighter the games the more teams rely on that bit of vision, that one killer pass. Grafting, synergy, togetherness...you need that little bit more. I'm not saying we don't have the players for it but we almost need the games flow to suit us for it to come together. I guess England could have done with Harry Winks or perhaps even Jack Wilshere - at least a version of Jack that isn't broken. Sadly the only version of him we have is permanently broken.
Heads spinning. Why even bother trying to rationalise it all. Blind faith is enough. It's coming home.
Danny Rose made some pre-game comments about Kane and his commitment and leadership. Citing how he's always first in training, starting half an hour early, with an almost epic appetite for preparation and success. The ultimate professional. Kane punching the ground at the end was a majestic illustration of the passion he has and the passion the team have for each other.
We feel it too Harry.
We won a shoot out people.