As if this decade hasn’t seen enough of its crazy sports moments.
Events that we thought deemed too laughable have now proven us wrong — the Chicago Cubs and the Houston Astros winning the World Series, a No. 16 seed beating a No. 1 seed in the men’s NCAA Tournament, Leicester City winning the Premier League title, Germany getting knocked out of the World Cup group stage this year and so on. The list continues endlessly.
Now, you can finally add England winning a penalty shootout to that category.
On Tuesday afternoon, the worst team in penalty shootouts finally broke their curse as England knocked out Colombia in the Round of 16, 4-3 in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw, in Moscow.
It is England’s first win in the knockout stage of any major tournament since the 2006 World Cup, and it’s the first win in a penalty shootout for the Three Lions since the 1996 European Championships quarterfinal.
But for a short time Tuesday, even the most pessimistic of English fans could be forgiven for their lack of faith. After all, losing penalty shootouts is the most English way to lose games, it seemed.
In Euro ’96, England’s penalty woes began. After beating Spain in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals, they were eliminated by Germany in the same scenario. In the 1998 World Cup, it was Argentina knocking out England via shootout. The same thing happened in the 2004 European Championships and the 2006 World Cup (both to Portugal in the quarterfinals), then to Italy in the 2012 European Championships.
On Tuesday, after Harry Kane’s goal in the 57th minute put England in front, Colombia’s Yerry Mina responded with a last-ditch effort, equalizing in the third minute of stoppage time to send the game into extra time before a penalty shootout followed. The script seemed all too familiar for England.
But this World Cup continues to be unpredictable in every way, and England showed that after persevering in their long-awaited penalty shootout win to exorcise the demons of the past.
No one expected the U.S., Italy or the Netherlands to miss out on this tournament and no one expected the Germans to say “auf wiedersehen” in the first round, but that’s the nature (and the beauty) of this game.
Some events still run their usual course. Mexico’s woes in the Round of 16 continue, while Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo remain without a World Cup medal. The sports universe can’t fix everything, you know, (just ask Minnesota Vikings fans).
But for now (at least for the last eight remaining countries), the dream of lifting the World Cup trophy lives on and someone’s long wait is about to come to an end. Dare I say, possibly England’s.