GAMES 55 & 56


Sweden 1 – 0 Switzerland

Part of the line being spouted by some that England’s next game will be easy (it won’t) is that Sweden are without the retired Zlatan Ibrahimovic. While he would undoubtedly cause a few problems, let’s not forget that he’s 36 now and although he’s still scoring, it’s in the MLS. Presumably he’s referred to as the “Kickgoal King” or something else equally fucking nauseating.

Apologies, I digress. In fact, I suspect it’ll be Sweden’s defence that proves our undoing if anything does, and Andreas Granqvist in particular. He was absolutely rock solid throughout this game and, while it wasn’t a pretty match by anyone’s standards, Sweden looked good at the back. (I am really regretting having used that flat-pack four gag in the last match report... Hey, I know! Why don’t I set up some kind of rhetorical narrative device so I can mention it in passing and people who didn’t read that report will think I’m hilarious? Yay! Good idea me. Note to self: must write that down in case I forget it.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, Granqvist. Solid. Dependable. Actually that’s exactly the word – dependable. Sweden looked like a team who were incredibly well drilled and all doing their bit – even if that ‘bit’ was so utterly devoid of entertainment value that some people on Twitter were calling for both teams to be disqualified and Japan let back in.  Seems a decent enough shout, but I can’t see it getting past those fine upstanding incorruptible sorts at FIFA though, can you?

It WAS a dull game though. One of the worst of the tournament so far. Penalties might have livened it up, it’s certainly worked for other last-16 games but, to be honest, it would have meant enduring another 30 minutes, so it’s probably for the best that Emil Forsberg’s speculative shot took a wicked deflection and went in. Beware though… dull doesn’t mean rubbish. Dull can win stuff, just look at the scoreline.


180530_WC_Studio_Still Life2094.jpg

Colombia 1 -1 England
               (3-4 on penalties)


Just a minute to hold on. Just one minute. Do that and you’re in the quarter finals of the World Cup. Against Sweden. God… could a semi-final really be on the ca…

Oh. They’ve equalized.

The sucker punch was felt not just by the players on the pitch, but by an entire nation, and it’s hard to comprehend the impact it will have had on England. Colombia equalised. From a set piece. In injury time.

In truth, England had looked in some trouble towards the end of the second half. Colombia had switched things around and crosses were flying in… there was a real sense of foreboding. It was a marked change from the first half, during which England had looked pacy and the distribution from Trippier dangerous.

The fact that England’s goal came from the penalty spot spoke volumes about the way Colombia decided to play, everything they did seemed aimed at sapping the game of pace and fluidity. They were cynically complaining every decision, feigning injury, scuffing the penalty spot and seemingly hell-bent on creating a sense of bad blood through violence. Wilmar Barrios, in particular, was lucky to stay on the pitch. The referee’s yellow card after his clear headbutt on Jordan Henderson was nothing more than a cop-out – either he did nothing wrong or it’s a straight red. Yellow wasn’t an option. The players’ calls for the ref to consult VAR fell on deaf ears, which I can understand, but why the VAR control room didn’t have anything to say on the matter remains a mystery. The salt in wounds moment was when Barrios shook hands with officials at half-time. I am normally a placid and good-natured man, prone to tears rather than aggression, but I have never wanted to slap someone so hard in all my days.

Anyway, Kane’s goal from the spot means that he’s the first England player to score in six consecutive games since Alfred the Great fought the Vikings and brought England together (more of that on Saturday). No, of course not! Actually, it’s since 1939 but, I’m sure we can all agree, that’s still a very, very long time. 

Colombia’s goal, when it came, was from their man-mountain defender Yerry Mina, who used height, power and a perfectly placed header to get the ball past Pickford, who stood no chance and, in any case, was later to make amends with a spectacular penalty save.

And speaking of penalties… Jordan Henderson didn’t miss, it was a great save. Mateus Uribe’s was a miss, however and, along with Jordan Pickford’s strong hand and Dier’s nerve, saw the unthinkable finally happen. England, through on penalties. After than, much is a blur. Shock most likely, followed by an endorphin chaser.

One last thing, while I remember. I’d never realised quite how much the Colombia coach José Pékerman looks like Roger Waters until tonight. Southgate, on the other hand, is more James Blunt. I'll take that tbh – Waters has always struck me as a bit of a dick.