John Stones responds to claims he taunted Colombia players after shootout victory

It was clear to see in the faces of England’s players that they really, really enjoyed Tuesday night.

Well, the conclusion of it, anyway.

England booked their place in the World Cup quarter-final by beating Colombia in a penalty shootout.

An entire nation feared the worst when the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of 120 minutes of action.

After all, England were nought for three in their previous World Cup shootouts.

And it looked like becoming four shootouts without success when Jordan Henderson’s attempt was saved by David Ospina.

Thankfully for Henderson, Mateus Uribe hit the crossbar, Jordan Pickford saved Carlos Bacca’s penalty and Eric Dier dispatched to secure England’s place in the quarter-final.

Stones ‘taunting’ photo

The players duly ran off towards Pickford and Dier in celebration.

One photo that quickly emerged appeared to show centre-back John Stones taunting Colombia’s Wilmar Barrios after Dier scored.

He certainly appears to be facing the midfielder with a look of ecstasy on his face. That’s how many football fans saw it.

But Stones insists he wasn’t mocking Colombia, and was instead looking towards England’s bench.

“Oh, I’ve seen that,” Stones said when asked about the photo.

“I was celebrating across to the bench. It’s come across a bit wrong but the best thing for us was to beat them at football.

“That’s the biggest thing that will hurt them. They’re back on the plane going home now.”

There is a renewed sense of optimism within the England camp right now, and the manner of the victory over Colombia has surely helped that.

Gareth Southgate will have wanted his players to win in normal time.

But Yerry Mina sent the match to extra-time with a header in the third minute of injury-time.

As disappointing as that was for the Three Lions, it was impressive to see how they responded.

Their heads didn’t drop and, while they were second best in extra-time, they overcame a hurdle by winning the shootout.

Mina’s equaliser could have been the best thing to happen to this England side at the World Cup.

Next up is a meeting with Sweden in Samara on Saturday.

England are attempting to reach the semi-final of the tournament for the first time since 1990.

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