ENGLAND boss Gareth Southgate hailed the mental strength of his players after seeing them reach the World Cup quarter-finals in the most dramatic possible way.
England looked to be heading through in normal time after Harry Kane’s penalty gave them a deserved 1-0 lead in the 57th minute.
But, three minutes into added time, Colombia’s Yarry Mina leaped highest to power a header home through Jordan Pickford and Kieran Trippier on the goal-line to ensure extra-time was required.
Typically for England,penalties were then required to settle the game, with most fans of an English persuasion fearing their team would maintain their awful shoot-out record in major tournaments.
But it all went against type with England winning the shootout 4-3 with Eric Dier and Jordan Pickford the dual heroes.
We’ve talked about creating their own stories and creating their own history and we’ve done a little bit of that tonight. We go to a quarter-final, but I don’t want to go home yet.Gareth Southgate
The first five penalties were all finely taken and successful, Kane and Marcus Rashford on target for England, but Jordan Henderson was first to err.
He struck cleanly but at a bad height and Ospina saved. Uribe hit the under side of the bar with the next attempt and Trippier buried his in response.
Pickford then produced a brilliant one-handed effort to deny Bacca leaving Dier to win it. The Tottenham man did so, squeezing it low past Ospina and sparking joyous celebrations.
Southgate praised the mental strength of his side in the face of continual provocation from Colombia during normal and extra time.
Asked if the opposition’s approach was unexpected, he said: “I don’t know if I ‘didn’t expect it’ but we didn’t rise to it, which was brilliant. A couple of times we lost our cool a little bit but generally speaking we kept our nerve.
“Our fans that were here were brilliant but it was almost an away game, so to deal with all of that was exceptional.
“It’s something the players can always look back on now and draw on as an experience.
“We’ve talked about creating their own stories and creating their own history and we’ve done a little bit of that tonight. We go to a quarter-final, but I don’t want to go home yet.”
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Southgate also hailed the value of England’s shoot-out preparation.
“They are tough,” said Southgate, who famously missed the penalty that saw England eliminated from Euro 96. “We talked long and hard about owning the process, they kept calm - great credit to all our staff and the players who’ve taken everything on board, and we got our reward today.
“We looked at individual technique, we looked at how we needed to be as a team. The goalkeeper’s very important in that.”
Dier lauded fellow shoot-out hero Pickford, saying: “He was incredible, he’s a fantastic goalkeeper and he was fantastic in the penalty shootout,” said Dier. “He’s been fantastic in training for them and he’s taken it into the game.”
On his own pressure moment, the Tottenham midfielder added: “It was a nervous one, I’ve never had a situation like that before.
“I felt like I had to score after the header I missed at the end (of extra time), and I’m just thankful I scored that one.”
Pickford added: “I’ve got that power and agility to get around the goal - I don’t care if I’m not the biggest keeper, I’ve got that power and agility and I’m very good at (penalties).”
England had researched Colombia’s penalty takers beforehand and Pickford said: “We had a fair feeling, and Falcao was the only one who didn’t go his (usual) way.”