Gareth Southgate’s players have debunked one of the longest-standing myths: England cannot win a FIFA World Cup™ shootout. Bruised and exhausted, yet elated, they celebrated emotionally with fans on the Spartak Stadium pitch. They had just booked their place in the quarter-finals from the penalty spot, which had haunted so many Englishmen before them.
It was not in the plan. Southgate had instructed his players to take care of business within 90 minutes yet, after Yerry Mina’s late equaliser, the doubt crept in. Many supporters then took to social media with sighs of “we all know how this ends” until they saw that this new England was changing the course of history.
So, was it beneficial to have sacrificed the lead and broken the legendary penalty curse?
“I think 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 where our fans were outnumbered five to one. The fans were brilliant, but just because of the numbers it felt like an away fixture. We’ve spoken to the players about writing their own stories. Tonight was a classic. They don’t have to conform to what’s gone before, so it was a great night for everyone involved in the team.”
The shootout itself was pure drama. Kieran Trippier, who enjoyed another strong performance, kept his composure to convert where Jordan Henderson had, moments earlier, been denied. Eric Dier’s kick, after a tip-toed run-up, powered past David Ospina to seal the win. Jordan Pickford will be a name for England fans to recall for generations to come. His acrobatic save to stop Mateus Uribe’s attempt was lauded by Southgate.
“It was a top class save,” the coach said. “His athleticism around the goal is excellent. He executed the plan in the penalty shootout. We’d studied all their takers, and great credit to all the staff and to him for taking on board that information and preparing in the right way.”
Southgate’s own spot-kick demons, however, live long in the memory. He missed a penalty against Germany at UEFA EURO 1996, and the nightmare resurfaced after England qualified from Group G this time around. England can change a habit, but history can never be rewritten.
“Well, it will never be off my back, sadly,” he admits. “That’s something that will live with me forever. But today is a special moment for this team. It’ll hopefully give belief to the generations of players that will follow.“