It was raining all over England on Tuesday night, but not in the way most would've expected. Usually, England is home to constant downpours of rain and bleak weather, but Tuesday night brought beer showers from London to Manchester, and smiles that could've brightened up any typical English day.
It may not seem real to some people yet, but England actually won a penalty shootout. Yes, a competitive penalty shootout involving the English national side didn't result in tears. For the first time since their shootout triumph over Spain at Euro 96, England finally broke the curse of the penalties. Jordan Pickford and Eric Dier were the heroes of England's penalty shootout victory over Colombia, and they may have just inspired generations of players to follow them.
Two unlikely heroes may have shifted how English footballers approach penalties for years to come, just like how previous penalty misses have condemned our heroes of yesteryear.
Growing Up English
If you grew up English, you'd know that penalties were never our strong suit. Tournament after tournament ended in heartbreak for England, with penalties often being our preferred choice of punishment. From 1990 onwards, the stereotype that the English couldn't handle penalties grew stronger with each defeat, and it wasn't going to be proven wrong anytime soon.
Was it the technique? The run-up? Or was it the mentality of English players? We'll never know for sure why England are notoriously bad at penalties, but all signs are pointing towards that stereotype shifting. Those who are 22 years old or younger have never seen England win a penalty shootout, and anyone under the age of 30 probably doesn't remember the one win too vividly.
After England's recent victory at the 2018 World Cup, penalties will be looked at differently around the country. The fear that accompanied a penalty shootout will have gone, but now young generations of footballers have seen their idols banish the ghosts of shootouts past. Gareth Southgate has changed the culture surrounding the English national team, working on every aspect of penalties. From the walk up to the technique itself, he and his coaches have helped shift a stereotype. For Southgate, the pain of missing a penalty for England is a feeling he is all too common with, but that pain has motivated him to help turn around England's misfortunes and no matter what happens, he has the Three Lions on the right track.
England's tournament may end against Sweden, and football may even come home this summer, but England's penalty shootout victory over Colombia should be celebrated and pinpointed as a moment that may shift future generations.
But It's Only One...
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Sure, it was only one penalty shootout win. It's not like England have magically transformed into the German penalty machines, but it's a step in the right direction. One shootout is all it takes to turn around the fortunes of a nation. Whether that Jordan Pickford save propels England to glory this summer, that remains to be seen. We don't know if Eric Dier's game-winning kick will be one of many iconic moments for England at the 2018 World Cup. The long-term impact that this penalty shootout victory can have shouldn't be underestimated, because not only is it a new sight for so many football fans around England, but it's a weight off the shoulders of an entire nation.