SAINT PETERSBURG,. They were made to go all the way to the dreaded penalties, but this time England emerged victorious from the spot against Colombia to spark belief the 2018 World Cup really could be the Three Lions’ time to shine.
Sweden await in the quarter-finals in Samara on Saturday after edging out Switzerland 1-0 thanks to Emil Forsberg’s deflected effort in a 90 minutes to forget in Saint Petersburg.
Here’s a look at three things we learned at the World Cup.
Fourth time lucky for England
England’s history with penalty shootouts gave their fans little cause for optimism after Yerry Mina’s stoppage-time header prevented them from reaching the quarter-finals in normal time.
However, England boss Gareth Southgate’s meticulous preparation for penalties paid off as for the first time in four attempts at the World Cup, England emerged victorious from the spot.
With Sweden to come in the last eight, and Russia or Croatia to follow in the semi-finals if they make it that far, England have a golden opportunity to finally end 52 years of hurt.
Kane closes in on Golden Boot
For once England could at least start a shootout with full confidence that one of their takers would find the net.
Harry Kane extended his lead in the race for the Golden Boot from the spot to open the scoring in Moscow and was just as deadly with England’s first penalty in the shootout.
Kane has now scored all four of his penalties in Russia and moved two clear of Romelu Lukaku in his quest to be the first English top-scorer at the World Cup since Gary Lineker in 1986.
Unspectacular Sweden march on
They edged the Netherlands out of qualifying, beat Italy in a play-off, finished above Germany and Mexico in their group and now have seen off Switzerland in the last 16.
Yet, few watching Sweden’s 1-0 win yesterday would say England have much to fear in the quarter-finals.
Sweden were clumsy in possession and stodgy in attack. The chances they did create, they spurned, with even Emil Forsberg’s goal coming from a deflection.
But opponents have struggled for rhythm against Janne Andersson’s men, whose run to the last eight for the first time since 1994 is no fluke. They are tight, organised and own a work ethic that is matched by their stamina. England cannot afford to be complacent.