|England’s penalty shootout win over Colombia was a huge moment for the players, the manager and the nation. Having lost three consecutive World Cup penalty shootouts in Italy, France and Germany, the curse was laid to rest in Moscow with a 4-3 victory over the Colombian team.
There was plenty of drama during the 120 minutes of football but the quality was lacking. Colombia were missing their best player and key creative influence, James Rodriguez. It showed as they struggled to assert themselves in the middle of the pitch in the early exchanges and did not have the little bit of quality required.
However, despite having 51% of the possession in the game and being on top in the opening 30 minutes, England also struggled to create anything meaningful from open play.
England’s goal came because of fouling from a corner and it wasn’t the first time they have been gifted a penalty in the tournament. Despite having completed more passes and ending the match with a greater passing accuracy, England only managed two shots on target during the entire 120 minutes of football.
Colombia had twice as many shots on target as England yet were criticised by many for their approach to the match.
This highlights a problem England have had throughout the tournament and that’s creativity in midfield. England have struggled to create good goal scoring chances in Russia and its that which could prevent them from winning the World Cup.
A great example is Harry Kane, who has 6 goals in the tournament, making him the top scorer after the Round of 16 stage. However, 50% of those goals have come from the penalty spot, two from corners and the other was a fluke. Kane has not faced the opposition goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation from open play and while the number of goals will go some way to easing his frustration, England have a problem.
Colombia handed them their only goal of the match in the Round of 16 tie and Panama also helped England with some of the worst defending from set-pieces you are ever likely to see at a World Cup finals.
England now face Sweden in the quarter-final and this is where their lack of creativity could come to haunt them.
Sweden do not have one individual player who would command a place in the England starting XI. What they do have is great organisation and an ability to defend. It is highly unlikely the Swedish players are going to be conceding needless penalties from poor defending at set-pieces and England will need to do something different to break them down.
Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling failed to provide the spark in the match against Colombia and could not create one good scoring opportunity for Kane in open play. That has got to change against Sweden if England are to break down Janne Andersson’s team and have a genuine chance of winning the World Cup.