Wed 04 Jul 2018, 10:51
England’s manager finds a waistcoat and redemption, the English forget they’re bad at penalties, Pekerman feels the pain again, and Sweden eyes another semi-final.
Southgate makes the unfashionable fashionable. Almost.
Gareth Southgate was a fine defender in his time, and he is proving to be an adept manager of an England team bereft of the skill of previous generations, but also without the baggage of expectations from previous years.
Southgate has fashioned an efficient 3-5-2 formation and has made many of his selections on player fit rather than ego. And it’s been good enough to get England into the last eight in Russia. Southgate’s ability to make the unfashionable fashionable extends to his trademark waistcoat. Marks & Spencer even said this week that ‘the Southgate effect’ increased demand for its waistcoats by 35%.
Three Lions put shootout ghosts to bed
Prior to Tuesday night, England had lost all of their three penalty shootouts in World Cups: in 1990, 1998 and 2006. But Southgate’s team rectified that record by holding their never to defeat a Colombia outfit that buckled under the pressure. It was also a night of redemption for Southgate himself, who missed a decisive penalty in the semi-finals of Euro 1996.
Colombia confound and confuse
To say the last-16 tie between Colombia and England was scrappy would be an understatement. Jose Pekerman’s men were disjointed and disinterested in playing football for around 80 minutes and were lucky to force extra-time.
Pekerman is best remembered for his excellent 2006 Argentina team, which was among the favourites for the title. In the quarters, he inexplicably substituted playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme against Germany and went on to lose on penalties. This time injury left Pekerman without his star player James Rodriguez, but as in 2006 it was to be a shootout tragedy for the veteran coach.
Sweden hold no fear
The Scandinavians don’t seem like a footballing powerhouse, but they have reached the World Cup semi-finals four times and finished runners-up in the 1958 tournament that they hosted. Janne Andersson’s men are well organised, skillful, and physical -- and were unfortunate to lose to Germany in the group stage. England’s form against Colombia won’t strike fear into Swedish hearts ahead of the quarter-final, and anyway, Sweden have a decent record against the English, having drawn against England at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. However, England did secure a 3-2 at Euro 2012.
Stream the quarter-finals on Friday on DStv Now on your mobile or your laptop while you're on the go. If you missed any of the action from England’s thrilling penalty shootout win over Colombia, catch up with an eight-minute highlights package.