England's youths display mental strength and maturity to seal quarter-final spot

Southgate's young charges put on show a myriad of positive qualities that allowed them to conquer Colombia

It’s official. England has won a penalty shootout at a major tournament. One can only imagine the fear that must’ve gone through every English fan when after 120 minutes their last 16 tie against the Colombians would be decided on penalties. But fear soon turned to pure ecstasy as Eric Dier calmly slotted the ball past David Ospina to book the Three Lions’ first quarter-final appearance since 2006.

Indeed Dier’s calmness encapsulated what this young England team was all about compared to the much vaunted golden generation of English players in the past. Ian Wright the BBC pundit, mentioned how even when Jordan Henderson missed his kick, he still believed England would come out on tops and it’s hard not to see why.

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Besides being some of the best penalty-takers the country has seen since England lifted the trophy, these group of players displayed maturity and mental strength. Especially in a game that threatened to boil over with the antics of the Colombians creating an unsettling atmosphere, for these young English players. England for their part never responded to any of the chaos created by their opponents and must be lauded for choosing to focus on the football more.

However at times it must be emphasised that the Colombians stooped so low with their dirty tactics and unsportsmanlike behaviour, culminating in Raheem Sterling being elbowed by a member of Colombia’s coaching staff.  Maturity was not only the quality on display but so was mental strength; most teams would have crumbled psychologically when conceding a late goal especially a team filled with inexperienced youngsters. But then again this England team are made up of players who are able to reset their mind-set and get the job done.

Significantly, this England squad still has its deficiencies and a lack of a game changer on the bench could hurt their prospects. However witnessing the unity of the squad is a breath of fresh air compared to the star studded squads of the past which were constantly dogged by rumours of division due to club loyalties. Gareth Southgate mentioned post-match that he doesn’t want to go home just yet; who knows maybe this is the time the Three Lions could roar all the way to glory