England actually winning a penalty shootout in a World Cup? Amazing, eh?
After scraping past a James Rodriguez-less Colombia early this morning on penalties, it should beat an insipid Sweden in the quarterfinals on Saturday (10pm in Malaysia).
Perhaps it may have been different if the Real Madrid star, who is on loan to Bayern Munich, was not sidelined by a calf injury.
But, credit where it’s due. Gareth Southgate, who famously missed a penalty at the 1996 Euro Championships, rallied the Three Lions after they conceded an injury-time equaliser. The match had ended 1-1.
Yet, despite its historic first-ever penalty shootout victory on foreign soil, I am still not convinced England – world No 12 – can win the trophy.
There’s Brazil (No 2), Belgium (No 3), Uruguay (No 14) and France (No 7) in the other half of the draw but England does have a realistic path to the showdown.
After Sweden (No 24) in the last eight, it could be either host Russia (No 70) or Croatia (No 20) in the semifinals.
You can’t blame the optimistic England fans who have been chanting “football’s coming home” – the song which became an anthem for Euro’96 – for believing it could be their year.
England has many fans in Malaysia, which is mostly due to the popularity of its Premier League than anything else.
Throw a stone and you probably hit a Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham or Manchester City fan.
At one time, there were even Leicester City supporters (no prizes for guessing it was the year it won the league).
Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if England does win the World Cup but for one simple fact – two pals have taken a bet to run naked at a nearby watering hole if that happens.
That atrocity should be banned under the Geneva Convention!
We have a few days rest before the quarterfinals kickoff on Friday with the Uruguay vs France match at 10pm.
It’s followed by Brazil vs Belgium at 2am on Saturday and England against Sweden at 10pm before wrapping up with the Russia-Croatia match on Sunday (2am).
Yes, Saturday, 10pm is going to be epic.
I’ll be glued to the television or laptop for live streaming … as Naby Keita finally makes his debut for Liverpool in pre-season friendly at Chester.