Heroes And Villains Of The World Cup: Matchday 19

OK, England won a penalty shootout, so we can be done with those forever now, right? No more penalties, no more penalty shootouts. Let’s just see some goals from open play and some gentlemanly behavior out there. Let’s all just agree to that and we’ll enjoy ourselves in the quarterfinals. What’s that? I’m being sent to the Gulag? 

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Heroes and Villains of the World Cup: Matchday 19

Hero: Jordan Pickford (England)

First, check out this save on Mateus Uribe’s strike. It resulted in the corner that Colombia scored from at the death, but still.

He’s the real hero because he ended England’s dreaded penalty shootout curse, and what a save it took to break the bad juju.

Honorable mention: Harry Kane (England)

He’s now 4-for-4 on penalties at this World Cup. That’s heartless. Everyone is missing penalties — Messi, Ronaldo, Sigurdsson, Modric — but not Kane. 

Villain: Mark Geiger (USA)

First things first, I’m not entirely convinced by the old “the referee lost control of the match” narrative. When 22 grown men all decide to act like total prats, what’s the answer? Pump some iron to look like Ed Hochuli and threaten to beat some asses? Grow massive, all-seeing Pierluigi Collina eyes? 22 dudes all going mental isn't a game, it's a riot.

There’s some kind of underlying belief that referees should just act like middle school taskmasters and exert some form of classroom control, but how exactly? By issuing yellow cards? Geiger handed out eight of them, so that’s not the answer. 

What’s a guy to do when everyone starts nuzzling each other and coaches start elbowing players and one team decides to totally stop playing and instead work on building a strong case of “the referee obviously screwed us over!”

Colombia can play — Colombia can play really, really well. But for 70 minutes or so the Cafeteros appeared to want nothing more than to get eliminated and send a wonderfully written dossier to FIFA detailing every perceived injustice they faced. The fact of the matter is that the penalty was controversial, but this wasn’t Chelsea vs. Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League. 

It sucks that James wasn’t available, but Colombia was so disappointing with its play — not that England was much better. 

Having said all that, Geiger just pissed everyone off with everything he did. There shouldn’t have been any Americans at this World Cup. 

Honorable mention: Manuel Akanji (Switzerland)

Oh no. That was going right into the keeper’s hands.

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