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World Cup of soccer fills quarterfinal field as England tops Columbia

Also in the Elite Eight are host Russia, Uraguay, France, Brazil, Croatia, and Belgium, and the quarters will be contested in July 10th and 11th doubleheaders

By Arnie Leshin 
Arnie Leshin

In a match that included 36 fouls, eight yellow cards, and a non-stop surrounding of referee Mark Geiger of the United States, all England was hoping for were penalty kicks.

And Columbia was determined to win this one after tying the score at 1-1 with only a minute left in the extra time. Until than, England was nursing its 1-0 lead on a score midway through the first half by team captain Harry Kane.

Meanwhile, frustrated Columbia just kept attacking through the 6-minute extra time and finally found the goal with the clock winding down, which gave Columbia’s fans something to go wild about, and this continued until the first 15-minute overtime.

Still deadlocked, the second and final extra-time had two weary teams as England got what it wanted, penalty kicks. Until than, Columbia’s comeback brought confidence that still left it with a tie.

And England, with a negative history in penalty kicks at the World Soccer Cup, fell behind 3-2 before taking a 4-3 lead that held up and advanced it to the quarterfinals against Sweden, which blanked Switzerland, 1-0, in a hard-fought match in St. Petersburg.

England and Columbia was more than ‘hard fought’. It was a feisty, nasty game. At times It resembled a wresting match, there were shoves everywhere you looked, players continuously falling to the turf, and Columbia getting in Geiger’s face every time he called a foul against it.

But the last laugh went to England, which was only allotted 5,000 seats while Columbia packed the stadium in Moscow. Go figure.

And go figure how England held up against the Columbia onslaught late in regular time and in both extra times. But it did, it kept its composure and figured its best chance to win was to go to penalty kicks. Twice before in the World Cup, it lost on them. Only in 1996 did the British win a shootout.

Not this time. First to go was Captain Harry Kane, who scored the England goal on a boot he maneuvered past the defense, now only took one step before kicking into the left corner of the goal.

Columbia matched it, and when England missed its third shot, it was down 3-2. But after England knotted the score, Columbia missed, and the final England shot from David Dier went past the goalie, and the celebration began. The Columbia supporters were stunned, the English faithful was hugging in the stands, and in the streets of London, and the final spot in the quarters was filled.

The other match-ups have Uruguay going against France, Belgium versus Brazil, and host Russia meeting up with Croatia. A doubleheader will be played on July 11th and 12th.

Uruguay just got past Portugal, 1-0, France nipped Spain, 1-0, Brazil blanked Mexico, 2-0, Belgium was down 2-0 to Japan before rallying in the second half and winning 3-2, and Croatia turned back Peru, 2-1.

NOTES: How about Japan? After losing a 2-0 lead and falling 3-2 to  Belgium on Monday, the team gathered before its fans in the stands and received cheers and salutes for its splendid effort.

Then the team headed for its locker room and did an ultimate class act by cleaning and making things tidy throughout the room. Then it bowed to the event staff waiting outside. Walking inside, it witnessed an immaculate locker room.

You want more, well the team and coaches left a message for the host Russians: “Spasibo” which means “Thank you” in Japanese.

Maybe the world would be brighter, friendlier and cleaner if more people did the same, except that the Japanese are always polite, thankful and friendly, which is hard to beat.

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