MOSCOW (Reuters) - Never mind that the Spartak Stadium seemed more like an outpost of Bogota for the duration of this match, the small patch of green in north-west Moscow will be forever England for the sliver of English fans who made it to this last-16 World Cup victory over Colombia.
Having been drowned out by a sea of screaming, whistling, South American supporters for more than two hours, the only voices to be heard were those of the some 1,000 England fans after their team had finally broken a penalty shootout World Cup curse to reach the quarter-finals.
For more than 40 minutes after Tuesday’s match, the English sang, bounced and danced with joy, stopping only briefly to acknowledge England manager Gareth Southgate when he came out to thank them.
“Oh-ee-oh, England’s going all the way,” they sang relentlessly.
Having never before won a World Cup penalty shootout — England lost the 1990 semi-final to Germany on spot-kicks, and exited the 1998 and 2006 tournaments in similar fashion — players and fans alike sensed they were part of something special.
The England players hugged their families in the crowd, and a number kept reappearing to soak up the atmosphere.
It had been a febrile, tense encounter — Colombia equalised in the dying seconds of normal time — and the penalty shootout only ratcheted up the stress levels.
Eric Dier’s winning penalty signalled a euphoric release both in Moscow, and nationwide back home in England.
“I’m nearly sick. Unbelievable drama. Emotions only. No words,” tweeted Geoff Hurst, the hat-trick hero of England’s last, and only, World Cup triumph in 1966.
Alan Shearer, who scored in England’s 1998 penalty shootout fail, simply tweeted: “Yesssssssss boys yeeesss yes yes”.
Other sports characters were unable to contain themselves.
“Totally and utterly brilliant - what a moment for this team — brilliant totally brilliant, well done England - amazing scenes, so pleased for everyone but especially everyone in England - wow ... yes yes yes and Southgate deserves this after 1996 brilliant, totally brilliant,” tweeted Clive Woodward, the manager of England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup triumph.
Southgate had missed a penalty in England’s 1996 European Championship semi-final shootout defeat by Germany.
Will Greenwood, who played for Woodward in that 2003 rugby final, spoke for a generation of England fans when he tweeted: “I could cry!!! Those of us over 40 have waited a long time to win one of those.... @ericdier we bloody love you!!”
Editing by Neil Robinson