England 1 – 1 Colombia (4 – 3 Pens) – England reach the Quarters!…

The wait is finally over. England have won a penalty shootout at a FIFA World Cup™ and what a feeling it is. In what was a record-breaking night for the national team, Gareth Southgate’s side put the ghosts of penalty past to bed and the Three Lions won a knockout tie for the first time in 12 long years. Surely now is the time to get excited? Only Sweden stand in the way of the first semi-final in 28 years.

It was a tense night and my heart-rate has only just returned to a normal pace. You’re brought up believing that England and penalty shoot-outs don’t mix, and so when 120 minutes were played and spot-kicks loomed, it was hard not to be cynical. That said, as they have done so many times this summer, our young England side surprised more than a few. Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Kieran Trippier and Eric Dier made no mistake from 12 yards, whilst tournament rookie Jordan Pickford produced a magnificent save to send England into the FIFA World Cup™ last eight. What a time to be alive.
It was undeniably England’s toughest test yet. Colombia were organised, physical and looked dangerous going forward despite the absence of their talisman, James Rodriguez. The South Americans weren’t afraid to play dirty, picking up five yellow cards and surrounding referee Mark Geiger at every opportunity, but England rose above all that. John Stones was a beacon of composure at the back in a hectic game, whilst Kane lead well from the front and won countless free-kicks to give his side some reprieve.

The Three Lions deservedly went ahead after the Tottenham striker was wrestled to the floor by Carlos Sanchez and of course, England’s captain despatched the resulting penalty with aplomb. We’ve become accustomed to Harry’s net-busting penalty kicks for England and Spurs alike but this time he opted for a calmer knock down the centre of the goal after Ospina had made his move – taking his tally to six for the tournament. It was a spectacular sight as the England players streamed towards the by-line to pile on one another in celebration. Powerful HDR technology and wide-colour gamut from the Hisense U7A really came into its own here, the ensuing melee was a tangle of the iconic red shirts against the lush green of the pitch and frenzied crowd in the background.

England looked to be coasting towards a professional victory and thoughts were already on Sweden on Saturday before a late Colombian flurry. Mateus Uribe hit a stunning effort from range and forced Pickford into a flying save, reminding a few that the tie wasn’t over just yet. And it was from the resulting corner that England were punished. Yerry Mina’s unmatched aerial presence was a concern pre-game and there was no one in red that could stop his equaliser. The Barcelona defender’s towering header brought England back down to earth and I can’t be the only one that thought we may have squandered our chance. Our boys were spent and it was the South Americans that looked the most likely to progress as the game headed for extra-time.

England had a strong five minutes in the second-half of extra time but ultimately neither side looked like they would threaten a winner before the 120th minute. England held out amongst jangling nerves across the nation. It was to be penalties once again, a fitting opportunity to banish the shootout ghosts after Southgate’s own trauma from the spot in Euro 96.

England were under pressure following Henderson’s saved penalty but following a fortunate miss from Colombia’s Mateus Uribe and an outstanding Pickford save from Carlos Bacca’s spot-kick, it fell to Eric Dier to seal the win. The atmosphere erupted and Hisense’s dbx-tv soundbar quality audio powered into action. As I stepped forward out of my seat, throwing away years of penalty shoot-out pain, the room filled with the atmosphere of the Spartak Stadium. The anguish and fears we had blown our best chance in the competition in some time were replaced with elation. It was our first ever FIFA World Cup™ penalty shootout victory, just the second ever in a major tournament, and I think the players will be better for it. The monkey is off their back which can only help us going forward and Southgate has ended his own 22 years of torment.

Although expectations were unusually low before the tournament, the hype around this young England team and their impressive coach has undoubtedly grown by the day. There are those that will get carried away, but why shouldn’t they? England have overcome the dreaded penalty shootout curse and we’re in the quarter finals against a very beatable Sweden team. Just three games stand between the Three Lions and FIFA World Cup™ glory, so if you’re not jumping on the ‘it’s coming home’ bandwagon then you’re not thinking straight!

The Armchair Reporter is tuning into the tournament with the Official TV of the FIFA World Cup™, the Hisense U7A 4K ULED TV. Specifically designed to offer the greatest possible sporting experience, there’s no better way to experience every moment of the beautiful game’s showpiece event, short of travelling to Russia!

Ben Groom
Hisense UK Armchair Reporter