MOSCOW • Gareth Southgate will never get over his own penalty miss 22 years ago, but efforts to ensure his young charges are not daunted by history paid off when they finally broke England's World Cup shoot-out curse on Tuesday.
"It was a night when I just knew we were going to get over the line," the coach said after England had to mentally recover from a 93rd-minute equaliser by Colombia's Yerry Mina and coming from behind in the shoot-out before reaching the quarter-finals.
Harry Kane had earlier put England ahead with a 57-minute penalty and the game ended 1-1 after extra time.
"We had the resilience and belief to get over the line," Southgate added, praising the composure and discipline of his side in the face of rough treatment and a raucous Colombian crowd in Moscow.
"We've talked to the players about them writing their own stories and tonight was the classic, they don't have to conform to what's gone."
Southgate was remembered - at least by the masses - for missing a penalty at Wembley against Germany which sent England out of Euro 1996. It has haunted him since and, when asked whether this victory atoned for that miss, he delivered a typically thoughtful response.
"It will never be off my back, sadly," he said. "That's something that will live with me forever, but today is a special moment for this team. It'll hopefully give belief to the generations of players that will follow. We always have to believe in what is possible in life and not be hindered by history or expectations. I think these young players are showing that."
SPECIAL MOMENT FOR THE TEAM
It will never be off my back, sadly. That's something that will live with me forever, but today is a special moment for this team.
GARETH SOUTHGATE, England coach, on whether winning the penalty shoot-out this time atoned for his own penalty miss 22 years ago at Wembley against Germany which sent England out of Euro 1996.
Deflecting the praise onto his team is something Southgate has been keen to do throughout the World Cup campaign.
But it was not simply about being mentally strong. Due to his own personal trauma, Southgate has thoroughly prepared his team technically for the possibility of facing spot kicks.
Since March, they have been studying penalties and developing strategies for coping with pressure, including walking from the centre circle and even taking psychometric tests to determine players' mental state.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who crucially denied Carlos Bacca before Eric Dier scored the decisive penalty which resulted in a 4-3 shoot-out win, told how they mimicked distraction techniques including screaming at each other just as they are about to step up to the spot.
They already had their five designated penalty-takers drawn up beforehand and the backup options should the shoot-out have continued past that number.
As it turned out, of England's penalty-takers on Tuesday night, only Jordan Henderson missed.
It meant that after having the worst penalty shoot-out record in world football - with one win in seven major tournament shoot-outs before Tuesday - they tasted victory again. England had previously lost in shoot-outs in World Cups in 1990, 1998 and 2006, and at the European Championships in 1996, 2004 and 2012.
Southgate's hard work finally paid off, but he is not allowing himself to celebrate, having already turned his thoughts to the quarter-final against Sweden on Saturday.
"Sweden is another team we have a poor record against (one win, five draws and two losses in World Cup and European Championship matches), whom we've underestimated in the past. We know exactly how they play and it's going to be a real tough test," he said.
The Swedes are increasingly confident and are relishing the prospect of facing England after displaying the best of their battling qualities in a 1-0 win over Switzerland.
Winger Emil Forsberg, whose deflected goal earned Sweden a first World Cup quarter-final berth since 1994, said his side will continue to make it tough for whoever they meet.
"We have had nightmare opponents wherever we went and, no matter whom we get, they'll have to work hard to win," he said.
"We believe in what we're doing and we can do something great."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS