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Luck evades the Swiss and Columbians as the English and Swedes make it to the quarter finals

Young English players hold their nerve in crunch encounter

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So, this is a different English team after all. A youngish team, but with greater steel. Harry Kane, had led them from the front and even with relatively less experienced players, they won a penalty shootout. Perhaps the more experienced one Jordan Henderson missed, but that was a wonderful save from the Arsenal Keeper, rather than a poor penalty. Pickford was brilliant when required. That save he made in extra time was top drawer. We would be raving about it for days, if Columbia hadn’t scored a minute later or so.

England shouldn’t have been in that position. They were in touching distance even within the 90 minutes. Perhaps the defenders were extra wary having received a penalty thanks to overly zealous defending. It lead to a goal and Columbia from there could have over ran England. But this team stood up and didn’t let the late goal affect them. Inevitably it went to penalties. Pickford was the hero again, saving the final penalty. After the game, Pickford confirmed that they had prepared beforehand. He said “We had a fair feeling, and (Radamel) Falcao was the only one who didn’t go his (usual) way.” Preparing is one thing, to execute under such pressure would be pleasing for Gareth Southgate. Perhaps, the young manager has passed his toughest test. Columbia, wanted to bully England into submission but none of the English players backed away from a challenge. It was really surprising that no one was sent off. Eventually, when Columbia switched gears, they scored. Had they started with such focus, who know what the result would have been.

If England had Pickford and luck of the penalties to thank, Swedes also had fair share of luck. Nevertheless, the Swedes were solid in defense and when they got a slice of luck, they stuck to their guns. It was a professional performance, if not as a pleasing one. For the Swiss, Xherdan Shaqiri tried his bit, and was a bit hit and miss. Their team tried their bit but missed that  little bit of quality in the final third.

England should start as favorites against Sweden. This team can perhaps break Sweden’s stodgy defense.

the authorAsjad Khan

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