In their first quarter final appearance at a FIFA World Cup since losing to Portugal on penalties in 2006 in Germany, England ensured that the dream of football coming home is alive and well after a 2-0 win against Sweden. A fantastic display once more by Jordan Pickford along with two headed goals by Harry Maguire and Dele Alli meant that the Three Lions are in the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup for the first time since the 1990 edition.
A goalkeeper who is capable of playing with his feet helped Gareth Southgate’s team to build from the back, and Pickford made 20 passes (13 of which came from inside his area). Not only that, against Sweden, England kept their first clean sheet of the entire tournament thanks to his impressive saves. That and coming off the back of a first ever penalty shootout win at a World Cup can only help the team grow in confidence.
However, you can’t win if you don’t score and England got a goal from an unlikely source. Leicester City’s Harry MaGuire picked up his first ever goal for his country via a fantastic header in the first half. The man who finished number one on the Twelve leader board was absolutely everywhere for England as is evident in his graph below (and especially if you select the ‘only important actions’ slider).
But it’s not always about goals. Jordan Henderson put in a workman’s performance. Shortly after Dele Alli headed home England’s second of the match, Pickford made a great save but arguably what came after it was more impressive.
The ball landed onto the feet of a Swedish player and Henderson stood firm blocking the shot as the England goalkeeper was picking himself up. The ball kept circling in and around the England penalty area until Henderson got hold of the ball and cleared it, celebrating like a mad man afterwards.
Jordan Henderson here has been overlooked due to Pickfords mad save. Blocks the shot, chases the geezer down and then celebrates like a loon after clearing it pic.twitter.com/MIfkHtdqUt
— JS (@vivajoeshearer) July 8, 2018
It’s maybe that sort of heart and passion which has been missing in previous English squads but that type of desire is contagious in a football team and just highlights how important the Liverpool man is to Southgate’s team.
Several of the players in the England squad were not even born the last time their country made the semi-finals of the World Cup. Marcus Rashford wasn’t even born when his coach Gareth Southgate missed a penalty kick against Germany at Euro 1996 (with Rashford being born a year later).
But this team is writing history and no matter the outcome against Croatia, they will be playing seven matches at this tournament. Either the third place match against one of France or Belgium or it’ll be on the big stage in the final. For England fans, they hope it’s the latter and they are now 90 minutes or 120 minutes away from potentially bringing it home.