It would always be a tight match between England and Colombia in the round of 16, and it went down to the wire as Gareth Southgate’s men emerged victorious after a nervy penalty shootout.
It looked as though Colombia had the momentum as they snatched an equaliser in added time of normal time, but they couldn’t capitalise on their impetus. They are rightly devastated by the result, but they made plenty of mistakes in a tie they could have won.
Missing James Rodriguez
After picking up an injury in the group stages of the World Cup, rumours were abound that James Rodriguez was back into the side for the knockout match. However, as the team sheets were released, Rodriguez was not only absent from the starting eleven but also from the substitutes’ bench.
The Bayern Munich midfielder saves his best for the World Cup, providing two assists in Colombia’s victory over Poland this edition.
In the 2014 World Cup, Rodriguez scored six goals in the tournament to announce himself on the world stage. His exclusion from the Colombia team versus England was not only a blow to the side’s attacking threat but also a big hit to their confidence.
His injury forced Colombia into a change of formation from their previous game, switching from a two-man central midfield to a trio. The team took on a different shape, averting away from their tried and trusted method.
Colombia could not have avoided Rodriguez’s injury; that much was bad luck. But Jose Pekerman could have kept the team’s formation and made a like for like swap.
Lack of discipline
The main takeaway from this tie for neutrals was the skulduggery from both sides. Colombia were the worst culprits, but England were not blameless themselves.
Wilmar Barrios was fortunate not to receive a red card after his headbutt on Jordan Henderson while Jon Stones’ innocuous seeming kick on Radamel Falcao could have been interpreted differently.
The first goal in the match came from a naïve foul by Carlos Sanchez, and that barely scratches the surface on the scrappiness of the match.
In normal time, Colombia received five yellow cards, including four in a 12-minute spell. This short period was absolutely manic for both sides, but Colombia looked rattled.
Tackles were missing, possession was going back and forth and it looked as though the game would fizzle out into a 1-0 win for England.
Alas, Yerry Mina’s equaliser gave Pekerman’s men a second chance to take the game. In extra time, the booked players had to play with extra caution and couldn’t commit to everything they might have to grab the winning goal.
Failure to capitalise
At the full-time whistle, the mood around the ground suggested that Colombia had taken the tie, such was the jubilance at the last minute header.
England looked deflated, bereft of hope. For all the world, it looked as though Colombia would carry their dominance into extra time and seal the game before penalties.
That was not the case though. The South Americans were the brighter of the two sides at the end of the 90 minutes and the first extra time period, but they never seriously looked to threaten Jordan Pickford’s goal, failing to register a single shot on target in extra time.
With their team having all the momentum, Colombia should have pressed their advantage. Instead, their limp forward movement from the 90th minute onwards opened the door for a few late chances for England: Danny Rose and Jamie Vardy both had chances from which they should have done better.
With both teams limping over the line, we were left with penalties, and we all know what happened there.
In the lottery of penalties, football matches can go either way. England should have won the game in normal time, Colombia should have sealed it in extra time. Mateus Uribe and Carlos Bacca could have been heroes, instead, they are villains.
England will continue in this World Cup, and they will take a lot of courage and inspiration from the shootout. Colombia returns home with complaints of unfair refereeing and the feeling of missed opportunity.
How different things could have been.
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