England won a World Cup penalty shoot-out for the first time in their history.
They beat Colombia after a tense encounter in Moscow.
Typically the Three Lions are terrible at spot kicks—losing six of their seven major tournament shoot-outs before Tuesday night—and when extra time reached its culmination, few would have given them much chance.
But, aided by a strong Jordan Pickford palm and a composed Eric Dier, this youthful, invigorated England squad did something their predecessors never managed.
And under Gareth Southgate’s tutelage, the reignited Three Lions are looking to conquer further.
Calmness under immense pressure, heightened by previous penalty woe, suggests these young, hungry internationals are ready to disconnect themselves from the plaguing stereotype English football often conjures up.
This shoot-out is the first indicator of real change.
Optimism on-and-off the pitch
The low-key nature of England’s preparations for the tournament, coupled with far less negative media coverage, proved only the beginning.
That alone was unconvincing, however the pre-World Cup buoyancy was translated into jubilation on the pitch, namely in a moment of euphoria, when Harry Kane thundered a last-gasp header home against Tunisia.
From there the Three Lions went on to obliterate toothless Panama. Still, the most pessimistic, critical supporters had doubts that this England possessed anything different from the England of old. After all, it was only Tunisia and Panama.
And a leggy display against Belgium reinforced their qualms in an admittedly drab encounter.
Many feared it would stunt much-needed momentum. They were wrong.
Once again more cheerfulness surrounded preparations for the knockouts than usual.
Refreshing videos of players unwinding, fans in lively spirits and pundits pondering over glory was a stark contrast from four years ago, when England were wiping away the tears and travelling home.
Naturally it came down to the performance on the pitch against Colombia. A laudable display ended in the sweetest fashion, no less than England deserved in an ill-tempered battle versus the petulant South Americans.
England can make more history
Although Gareth Southgate insists a lid must be kept on expectations, hopeful England supporters will undoubtedly plot the Three Lions’ route to the final.
And it is fair enough, too, as a steely penalty shoot-out win really does demonstrate the change in tournament mentality for these players.
Endeavour and fearlessness have been the Three Lions’ chief qualities, and even if they fall at the quarter final hurdle there is plenty to build upon.
The clash with Colombia could have easily ended in the heartbreak symptomatic of England these days.
But there is a different, sprightly feeling in the air. It is a sense that positivity will be the overriding emotion, whatever happens in the remainder of the tournament.
That is down to Southgate, and a cool, meticulous approach set to take England a long way, in this World Cup and beyond.