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The penalty shoot-out that redefined impossible

PUBLISHED: 10:15 07 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:04 08 July 2018

England celebrate after winning the FIFA World Cup 2018, round of 16 match at the Spartak Stadium, Moscow. Picture: PA

England celebrate after winning the FIFA World Cup 2018, round of 16 match at the Spartak Stadium, Moscow. Picture: PA

PA Wire

England’s historic World Cup penalty shoot-out win against Colombia on Tuesday has proven that history does not always repeat itself. So perhaps life isn’t futile after all and perhaps, more importantly, football is coming home, says Jacob Massey.

England's Eric Dier scores his sides fourth and winning penalty in the penalty shoot out against Colombia        Picture: PAEngland's Eric Dier scores his sides fourth and winning penalty in the penalty shoot out against Colombia Picture: PA

We all know the rules of football. It’s a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end the Germans always win - or so we thought.

Indeed, when the PFA Young Player of the Year Leroy Sane was left out of Germany’s World Cup squad the fate of the Jules Rimet seemed sealed in my eyes.

But over the past three weeks of this glorious tournament the rules of football appear to have been rewritten - and I’m not talking about VAR.

Eternal winners and current holders Germany didn’t make it past the group stage. Pass-masters Spain were eliminated by host nation Russia. And England won a penalty shoot-out.

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saves a crucial penalty from Colombia's Carlos Bacca             Picture: PAEngland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saves a crucial penalty from Colombia's Carlos Bacca Picture: PA

Now, I have never been a fan of the ‘anything is possible’ adage propogated by those at the top of their fields; I’m sorry Usain Bolt, you may have run faster than any human ever, but no matter how much I practise I promise you that I never will.

However, the cynical and defeatist outlook by which I live my life may have been irreversibly altered.

I was living in New Zealand in 2016 and was in the pub at 6am, slice of toast in hand, when England were brushed aside by Iceland in the last 16 of the Euros. You know that old confusing feeling of disbelief, mixed with a nauseous sense of familiarity and inevitability.

I spent the rest of that day being ridiculed by my Kiwi colleagues - “Hey I’ve got a message for the Iceland players - Gud’on’ya’sson!”

Since then I have staged a small boycott of the England side, purposefully avoiding all of their qualifiers and friendlies prior to the World Cup; the camel’s back had been broken by a Viking’s axe.

As a child I remember sobbing uncontrollably when England were knocked out by Ronaldinho’s looping freekick, furiously shouting “SEAMAN!” in a way my parents would undoubtedly have found amusing had they not also been heartbroken.

Two years on at the Euros, and the quarters proved our limit again following a cruel elimination on penalties: Rooney’s broken bone, Urs Meier’s dismissal of Sol Campbell’s last gasp goal, Beckham’s ballooned spot-kick.

It was déjà vu at the 2006 World Cup in Germany as Portugal undid us in the quarters once again: Ronaldo’s wink, a red card and 12 yards.

And the pain-fest has only worsened since.

The Wally with the Brolly who oversaw a failed Euro 2008 qualification campaign. Robert Green’s blunder, WAGs and the Lampard goal that wasn’t in 2010.

The return to the favoured execution of death by penalty in 2012, with the added stomach punch of Pirlo’s taunting dink. Abject failure in Brazil in 2014 - bottom of the group, out after two games and praise from Hodgson for a creditable draw against Costa Rica.

But yet, despite boycotting the qualifiers, hope began to stir within me as England’s campaign in Russia got under way. I tried my very best to quell this hope, this most dangerous form of self-torture, but I could not. It is inevitable, like the sunrise, lapsed diets and England’s elimination on penalties.

And so when Mina scored that most undeserved goal in the 94th on Tuesday, I was reminded of the futility of hope - ‘ahhh, of course, it will go to penalties and then that’s it’.

True to script Henderson’s penalty was saved and my foolishly revived dreams began to shatter once again.

What hurts more than the broken dream though is the feeling of stupidity for having the dream in the first place, when history tells you the dream is futile.

But the strong wrist of a Mackem has changed history - England have won a penalty 
shoot-out in a World Cup.

I was only four when England beat Spain on penalties, so the very sight of England’s players racing from the halfway line in celebration was like witnessing an alien landing to me.

Now, if England can get past Sweden on Saturday then that will be another first in my lifetime; England will be just one game from a World Cup Final.

And if that happens, then who am I to say what is and isn’t possible? Perhaps Usain Bolt and co are right. Maybe if I practise enough then I too can be the fastest man in the world. And maybe if we all sing Three Lions enough, then football will come home.

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