MOSCOW- Thursday, July 5, 2018- After the defeat of Colombia, England formed a delicate place in heart of their fans, not only for the nerve-jangling breaking of their penalty shootout hoodoo but also by clearing doubts of many questions from Gareth Southgate’s side.

Along with Harry Kane ‘whose six goals in the tournament are no real surprise, leading the line and Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard behind him, England has exciting talent in their front line’.

Harry Maguire and John Stones were chosen by Southgate primarily because of their ability to play the ball out of defense and for their comfort in possession. Coming into the Round of 16 clashes against Colombia, England’s rearguard had yet to be truly tested.

Colombia though certainly had the quality, will an opportunity to exploit any weaknesses in Southgate’s defense and, while the late header from Yerry Mina forced extra-time, the backline passed their examination in impressive fashion. Tunisia and Panama, probed the three-man central defense, while the final group game against Belgium saw both sides field reserve line-ups, rendering any analysis irrelevant.

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Behind them, Jordan Pickford, the 24-year-old goalkeeper in just his seventh England appearance, had a night he will never forget. More than that, even though Colombia were attacking in numbers, at times in frenetic fashion, Stones, and Maguire, along with Kyle Walker, were still able to play the ball out of the back with a calmness rarely seen in an England side.

It has been noted, most recently by Belgium shot-stopper, Thibaut Courtois that there are many taller keepers than the 6ft-1in Pickford and Southgate could not resist a dry dig back.

“It was a top-class save and I was surprised he could reach it given his height,” he said with a grin. His athleticism around the goal is excellent and he executed the plan in the penalty shootout. We’d studied all their takers, and great credit should go to the collective of staff, and to Jordan, for taking on board that information and preparing in the right way. You don’t always get what you deserve in life but I think we did against Colombia”.

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