Ask just about anyone in the United States to know a league in soccer. If they don’t answer MLS, it’s more than likely going to be the English Premier League. Such is the appeal of England and its team, no matter if it’s in club or international soccer. Of course, the fact that they are essentially the founders of the game and share a language also helps breed the popularity of their team. And after Tuesday’s epic win over Colombia in a penalty shootout, they are now closer to getting themselves into a possible final and bringing back just their second World Cup ever.
It all looked a little crazy, in truth. On the final day of group play, after dominating Panama and narrowly escaping Tunisia, they decided to essentially throw the group win away to Belgium. That, though, worked out in their favor. They did have a tougher draw, on paper, against Colombia than Belgium got with Japan, but now just look at their bracket. They now have a quarterfinal showdown with Sweden awaiting them on Saturday. Sweden are a fine team, no doubt, but they have to be considered quite favorable and comparable to England. England will know that style very well and will feel they can grind one out in another ugly showpiece.
Then, a possible match up, should they win that, with either hosts Russia or Croatia in the semi-finals. While Croatia are scary due to the talent they have, neither team are among the game’s elite. This sets up England with what has to be called a likely World Cup Final. All of it coming as a result of more ineptitude and luck on their part. Luck to get the draw that they did in the first place as well as the results from the group stages. And then their ineptitude in the Round of 16 itself.
After taking a 1-0 lead from a Harry Kane penalty, after he had been piggy backed by a defender, they conspired to throw it away with a late corner that Colombia headed in via Yerry Mina. 30 tense and nervy minutes later, penalties were in store. Even mild soccer fans will know England’s record in penalties, and it’s dreadful. Yet, they still came through, somehow despite being the first side to blink. Could this be their year? You never, ever know judging by how unpredictable and nonsensical this World Cup has been so far.