My Viking heritage surfaced this morning judging by my Thor head.
Eng-er-lund advancing to the last eight saw the Catholic church agree that winning a penalty shootout win was a verified miracle. Gareth Southgate’s sainthood is a World Cup win away.
Colombia got it horribly wrong. Their cynical approach, determined to unsettle, jar, and aggravate, was reminiscent of Uruguay 1986. The fifteen minutes from 75 to 105 minutes highlighted they would have been better served by playing football. Instead, they slumped to a deserved defeat.
It was ugly, spiteful, and unnecessary; that’s just Jordan Henderson, but England matched Colombia’s cynicism as they hit the deck for every little foul, which an appallingly weak referee reduced the match to. The ugly side of the game shone through with Maguire’s dive in the second half capturing the mood. He ‘unsportingly’ hit the deck with no contact and then ‘sportingly’ told the ref it wasn’t a foul.
This from Henry Winter summed the referee’s performance up:
It’s beginning to look more like English referees missed out because of incompetence using VAR than for being generally useless.
The headbutt on Henderson summed up the evening. It’s inexplicable that a red card didn’t follow; VAR ‘bottled it’. Mark Clattenburg sensibly suggested that VAR shouldn’t make the call, but instead tell the referee to review the incident.
Surprisingly, the referee didn’t bottle the penalty decision, which led to scenes. Three minutes passed between the award of the spot kick and Kane taking it, with not an injury in sight.
It was a staggering foul highlighting that neither coaches or players watched other matches. Since the first round of games, referees give a warning and then two falls and a submission mean a penalty. Yet players still do it; madness.
Credit to Kane for keeping focused and scoring.
I’ll Get You, Butler
At the half-time whistle, FIFA’s security came under scrutiny when a drunk ambled pitchside and dropped a shoulder on Sterling. The dishevelled and elderly gentleman turned out to be a member of the Colombian entourage, determined to continue the players’ efforts.
On the subject of Raheem Sterling, barely had the final shrill peep of the referee’s whistle faded before the Heil were after him again. There is a newspaper which isn’t going to rest until Sterling is hanging at Traitor’s Gate.
While Jordan Pickford is rightly getting plaudits for his save just before Colombia’s equaliser – talk about not doing your homework on Yerry Mina – and winning the shootout, Maguire was strong throughout the previous 120 minutes.
Walker is the one defender whose place is under threat, looking weak in a back three while Eric Dier’s inclusion leaves me baffled. He took a good penalty but precious little else about his performance was good.
It certainly wasn’t pretty but England won and looking at Sweden’s performance against Switzerland, won’t be afraid of the egoless Scandanavians. Nor they England, I should imagine.
At Arsenal, pre-season photos showed Unai Emery in Blakey mode, striding the Colney turf looking important with his clipboard. We’ll see him accused of giving a team away at some point when in reality it’s just the cone clearing rota.
Until now, it felt like the change in manager was almost an ‘intellectual exercise’, a ‘what if’ or ‘what would it be like’ game. Now, the energy of change courses through my veins – particularly since the alcohol has created space for it – and the new season can’t come soon enough. Or the friendlies, with the development of the team’s new style being a fascinating aspect of the next month.
Calum Chambers signed a new contract extension with Unai Emery commenting that “I’m delighted Calum has extended his stay with us. He played an important role last season and will be part of my plans this season.”
The question now is where does Rob Holding stand in Emery’s plans? Mavropanos seems to be ahead of him in the first-team queue although that was ‘old thinking’; is the new boss the same as the old boss?
Which leaves one contract for the team to focus on. If Mesut Özil had the club over a barrel, Ramsey dug it out of storage and is putting Ivan firmly over it. Quite simply, Arsenal can’t afford for the Welshman to leave without having a ‘big name’ to replace him. With all due respect to Torreira – or N’Zonzi, Gomes, and Asensio – they won’t fill the Welshman’s hole in the side. Well, the latter might.
Elsewhere, Mesut Özil’s brand demands were sated as he was ‘rewarded’ with the Number 10 shirt. Bernd Leno must wait to see whether Dave or Pete leave before he is given a squad number.