In the last game of this Word Cup’s round of 16, group H winners Colombia faced group G runners-up England on Tuesday evening. Naturally, the prize for the winner would be a place in the quarterfinals, where Sweden awaits to do battle for the right to go on. Earlier on the same day, the Swedes sent Switzerland packing with an excellent tactical display in which a deflected 66th-minute shot by Emil Forsberg was enough to settle the score.
Having started their campaign with an unexpected defeat to Japan, Colombia faced an uphill battle in the next two rounds and they managed it admirably, thoroughly thrashing Poland before squeezing past Senegal to top the group. This naturally meant coach Jose Pekerman had to play his best options continuously. For this game however, he couldn’t count on James Rodriguez due to injury, so he chose the following personnel:
David Ospina in goal, Yerry Mina and Davinson Sanchez in the heart of defence flanked by Santiago Arias and Johan Mojica. Carlos Sanchez anchored the tree-man midfield where he was joined by Wilmar Barrios and Jefferson Lerma. Juan Cuadrado and Juan Quintero flanked Radamel Falcao in attack.
England took full advantage of playing the group G underdogs in the first two rounds and snatched all six points against Tunisia and Panama, thus securing participation in the knockout stages. They therefore had the luxury of rotating the team heavily and resting key players against Belgium and they suffered a defeat which meant little. But for this game, coach Gareth Southgate played his favorite line-up:
Jordan Pickford between the posts; John Stones as the central figure of defence joined by Kyle Walker on the right and Harry Maguire on the left; Kierran Trippier and Ashley Young on the flanks as wing-backs, Jordan Henderson in the middle of the park helped by the more advanced duo of Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli; Raheem Sterling acted as a pacey attacker next to striker Harry Kane.
The First Half
Both teams entered the match explosively. There was a lot of passion to be noted as the game was being played very directly, with the ball quickly travelling from one box to the other.
In the first 10 minutes, England seemed to have marginally more control of the proceedings and they arrived in front of Colombia’s penalty area with some frequency. There they won several set-pieces – corners and free-kicks from favorable positions, but they couldn’t find the target. The South Americans defended just as passionately and it was by no means easy for England’s attacking players to find a way around Mina and Davinson Sanchez.
With 16 minutes gone, Kane had a good chance as a cross from the right by Trippier found him on the far post, but the Spurs striker couldn’t direct his header the way he’d have wanted to.
As the game progressed, Colombia increased their possession of the ball and pushed forward, but their link-up play was leaving a lot to be desired. The English were closing them down in a highly organized fashion, but it was nevertheless an improvement from Pekerman’s men.
With seven minutes of the half remaining, Lerma brought Kane down 20 yards from Ospina’s goal in a position highly favorable for a right-footed shooter. There was a lot of commotion around (up)setting the wall, and Barrios eventually picked up a booking for head-butting Henderson which would mean a game to be missed by the midfielder should Colombia prevail in this one. After a while, the referee regained control of the players and the free-kick was eventually taken by Trippier in a disappointing fashion – fairly wide of the near post.
Tempers kept boiling even in stoppage time. It was originally set to last three minutes but it ended up going for five. Sterling and Mina had a tussle at one end of the pitch, Cuadrado and Maguire at the other, while a Falcao follow-through caught Alli on the thigh, leaving him down on the ground in need of treatment.
The Second Half
The second period started a bit calmer than would have been expected, but the calmness wasn’t destined to last long.
In the 52nd minute, a cross by Young was cleared by Davinson Sanchez right in front of Maguire for a corner. As the corner was swung in, Kane got the better of Carlos Sanchez in their battle for position and forced the Colombian midfielder to drag him down. Penalty and a booking for Sanchez, causing another stir of emotion from both sets of players which ended with Henderson picking up a yellow card as well.
Kane stepped up, took the penalty in a recognizably cool fashion and gave England the lead.
The tempers were hot throughout the rest of the game, and Stones was lucky to avoid getting his name in the book after a tussle with Falcao a minute after the opening goal.
After an hour, Pekerman made his first substitution by introducing striker Carlos Bacca for midfielder Jefferson Lerma. Bacca brought a livelier approach upfront, making runs, challenging in the air and pressing high, but a way to the net behind Pickford just couldn’t be found.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Southgate tried to shift a gear down. He took out Alli and sent in Eric Dier.
Less than a minute later the Colombians had a geat chance to level the score as Walker inexplicably gave the ball away, and Bacca pounced. He took it forward at pace, and as options opened up ahead he chose Cuadrado on his right, and the winger took a hasty shot over the bar.
Pekerman’s last throw of the dice was sending Luis Muriel, another striker, into the fray instead of Quintero.
Five minutes of injury time were announced, and less than three in, substitute Mateus Uribe, who had come on in the 79th minute for Carlos Sanchez, took a good volley from range that Pickford barely saved. From the ensuing corner taken by Cuadrado, Mina flew into the air and slammed a header into the net, sending the game into extra-time.
Into the Extra-Time
The game was fairly balanced in the 30 added minutes. Colombia pressed on early and created a few half-chances, while England retaliated in a similar manner later through Vardy and Rose.
But at the end of 120 minutes, still nothing separated the teams and the outcome was set to be decided by a penalty shootout.
Colombia: Falcao – scored, Cuadrado – scored, Muriel – scored, Uribe – crossbar, Bacca – saved.
England: Kane – scored, Rashford – scored, Henderson – saved, Trippier – scored, Dier – scored.
The Colombians started the tournament by conceding a penalty and having a player sent off after only three minutes, and they unfortunately went out of it on penalties too. In between they put in a few excellent performances, and they can leave Russia with their heads held high.
Meanwhile, England will go on to meet Sweden in the quarterfinals, and they will fancy their chances of progressing again. They’ve shown grit and determination in this World Cup, and it would be unfair to say they didn’t deserve their luck in the end.
COLOMBIA: Ospina 7, Mina 7.5, D. Sanchez 7.5, Arias 7.5 (116′ Zapata N/A), Mojica 7, C. Sanchez 6.5 (79′ Uribe 7.5), Barrios 6.5, Lerma 6.5 (Bacca 7.5), Cuadrado 7, Quintero 6.5 (88′ Muriel 6.5), Falcao 7.
ENGLAND: Pickford 8, Walker 6.5 (112′ Rashford N/A), Stones 7, Maguire 7, Trippier 7.5, Young 7.5 (102′ Rose N/A), Henderson 7, Lingard 7.5, Alli 7 (81′ Dier 7), Sterling 7.5 (88′ Vardy 6.5), Kane 8.5.
GOALS: Kane (Pen.) 57′, Mina 90’+3.
YELLOW CARDS: Barrios 39′, Arias 52′, C. Sanchez 54′, Henderson 56′, Falcao 63′, Bacca 64′, Lingard 69′.
RED CARDS: None.
REFEREE: Mark Geiger (USA).
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