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The drama of a penalty shoot out will never be beaten, it’s the pinnacle of pressure within football and something that you can never replicated.  The feeling you get as a football fan wherever you are watching is unrivaled, we all feel and we all know what I mean.  

It’s excitement, it’s nerves, it’s fear, your heart beats at a rate it’s shouldn’t for a sustained period of time, you have that feeling in your stomach that doesn’t go away, every second seems to take a lifetime and every moment matters.

That’s how we feel as a fan, now imagine what it must feel like for the players!  Now imagine being a player who had missed in the final previously and the abuse that was endured or a player who is stepping up knowing what they will endure should they miss.  Yes, they are professionals, yes, they earn a lot of money and most of us would give anything to be in their position but in reality, would we?  

How do you control yourself in those situations? How do you find the mentality to subdue those emotions, be in the moment and perform to the best of your ability?  Historically England players have failed to handle it when it really matters, we always lose at penalties don’t we?  

Saturday felt different, Saturday felt like these players were ready for this moment, even embracing the limelight.  Every penalty was decisive, fearless and clinical.  

Cole Palmer stepping up 1st knowing he’d been picked on form but also for if this situation happened.

Bellingham who has been told how poor he’s been this tournament despite being top scorer.

Toney who was told pre tournament that he was only there to do just this and take a penalty.

Trent, the scouser playing for England which brings its own pressure and who had been dropped from game 2.

Saka who failed the last time, knowing that this was the most important kick of his career.

It felt like justification and REDEMPTION for all of them.  This is the reason they are in this squad, this is the reason they were the 5 chosen, for that moment and everyone of them passed with flying colours.

For Saka, you could feel the relief around the stadium.  This was his Stuart Pearce from Euro 1996, a chance to rid himself of all those demons and make his mark as someone who England can rely on.  In what was probably his best game not only this tournament but for England he lifted the weight off his shoulders not just for him but for those alongside him.

The game itself was poor once again, England are not in form by any means but other than Spain who is this tournament?  The tournament as a whole has been poor.  None of the superstars have shown up and for a tournament to be remembered you need those stars to make it a spectacle and none of them have.  Maybe this is a sign of modern football, too robotic and not enough freedom.  The team again looked unbalanced and scared on Saturday night yet we find ourselves only 2 games from potentially winning our 1st major tournament since 1966.

At 40 years old I’ll be attending my 3rd semi final of a major tournament in 6 years, we’d only played 2 semi finals in our history pre 2018 in Russia, now we will have played in 3 of the last 4 tournaments.  We’ve come a long way but we still haven’t come far enough just yet.

Playing Holland is something that is unique in itself, there is something special about 2 countries steep in history but who have always under performed when it matters meeting at this stage.  The orange wall that will no doubt be loud behind the opposite goal will be a sight in itself.  Maybe this tournament is reflective of both teams and nations, neither have set the world alight and neither had expectations of being in the semi final.  Yet both find themselves 2 games away from glory.

Wednesday night in Dortmund will be a night to remember, one that I hope doesn’t bring this summer to an end.

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