It was a tale of two Jordan’s as England booked one of the last trains to the quarterfinals in a push for glory for the first time since 1966
Kashinath Bhattacharjee, Moscow
The ‘Jordan Effect’ was said to be an unfair phenomenon when the legendary Michael Jordan used to play for the Chicago Bulls. On Tuesday in Moscow, England had two Jordan’s and they had impacted their performance in totally different ways.
Jordan Henderson’s third penalty was saved by David Opsina. Jordan Pickford’s save of Carlos Bacca’s fifth penalty allowed Eric Dier the opportunity to shoot for glory.
This was England’s fourth tie-breaker in a World Cup and for the first time they were victorious. The 1990 semifinal versus West Germany was a heart-break while David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo were villains for their matches against Argentina (1998) and Portugal (2006) respectively. Cristiano, because, he was the reason Wayne Rooney had to be sent off, as claimed by the English media over the last twelve years.
At last, those memories were erased. English fans, present in Spartak stadium, Moscow, were celebrating the victory like there was no tomorrow.
The Otkritie Arena in Spartak had its last match of the World Cup on Tuesday with Colombia taking on England. The beauty of the Otkritie Arena for the journalists covering the matches is that the media tribune is so close to the ground. It is a small stadium compared to other grounds in Russia 2018. The first three rows of the tribune are reserved for members of the media that did not need a desk. Misdirected shots would often fly in there, with players taking long throw-ins often starting to run from the edge of the fencing.
On a day when fortune smiled on England, these people from the media had two special guests from the Colombia camp to sit with them in the first row. The first was Esteban Cambiasso, the scorer of that 24-pass historic goal for Argentina against Serbia and Montenegro in 2006 and a figure that is now working as an assistant to Jose Pekerman in Colombia. Sitting next to him was James Rodriguez who could not be a part of the team due to injury. His fan-boy reactions when his teammates missed chances had to be seen to be believed.
While Colombia was searching for James on the pitch, England found their hero in their new goalkeeper from Everton. Pickford had played only seven matches for the Three Lions. But his left-handed save had really saved the people from the Queen’s country from another embarrassment.
Their supporters were outnumbered by the Colombians in the gallery. It was more yellow than white. At the end, the Whites consoled them, congratulated them on a tremendous fightback and went home sharing the same metro trains. Both the stations on violet line no 7 – Spartak and Tushinskaya – were so crowded, extra police was required to deal with the crowd. Unlike the normal images of English supporters touring with the team, these were more disciplined and gently-behaved fans attending a World Cup match.
They will all now go to Samara to see their team play against 26th-ranked Sweden in a World Cup quarter-final on July 7. The UK was one of the major allies with Soviet Russia during the World War II. When Russia is hosting the World Cup, England has already found the best ‘way’ – losing to Belgium in group league – to reach the final for the first time since 1966.