The Bronze Age is upon us.
England have ended 51 years of hurt by finishing third in a tournament for the first time since Euro ’68.
And they did so by winning another penalty shootout.
How times have changed…
Thanks to the heroics of the cocksure Jordan Pickford, the Three Lions can take some solace from their season of hard work in the inaugural Nations League.
Goalless after 120 minutes of tepid action against Switzerland in the third-place playoff, the goalie stepped up to take England’s fifth penalty in the resulting shootout and fired it past Yann Sommer before saving Josip Drmic’s kick moments later.
Pickford’s exploits were brilliant, but they took me back to a disturbing summer night 15 years ago, when a wide-eyed Portuguese goalkeeper ended my youthful hopes and dreams with a similar moment of audacity.
It was in a quarter-final clash at Euro 2004 where Portugal’s Ricardo stepped up, took off his gloves and saved a weak penalty kick from Darius Vassell in sudden death before he himself netted the winner straight after.
It’s haunted me ever since.
Of course, that knockout game in Portugal was far more important that the knockout game in Portugal we saw on Sunday, but the parallels were certainly there.
For one thing, Callum Wilson thought he’d won the game with a late strike, before his goal was chalked off by VAR – much like how Sol Campbell saw his header in extra-time ruled out under suspicious circumstances by the infamous referee Urs Meier (who was Swiss, by the way).
And while it would’ve been slightly more satisfying had Pickford kept his gloves off and saved Fabian Schar’s ensuing penalty, we can’t have it all.
Piece by piece, this England side is righting the wrongs of the past that we’ve had to endure for far too long.
Much like at the World Cup, where we finally won a penalty shootout and reached a semi-final, the Nations League showed us that we can overcome the likes of Croatia and Spain, and hold our nerve (once again) in a shootout.
Now I just need to see us get a few victories over Germany to really put my demons to rest.
- Unfortunately England will struggle to win anything until they find their own Frenkie De Jong
- Eden Hazard’s arrival signals a new Galactico era at Real Madrid
- Trent Alexander-Arnold’s reputation significantly improved without playing a minute against Holland
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