A national television audience of more than 23 million people roared England to a 4-3 penalty shoot-out success over Colombia in the last-16 of the 2018 World Cup, but few loved it more than Three Lions centre-back John Stones.
The spot-kick triumph was England’s first-ever victory in a World Cup shoot-out and delirious celebrations broke out as soon as Eric Dier confirmed the win with his decisive penalty.
There was plenty of bad blood on display between the two sides throughout the encounter. Feisty from the outset, the match became even more intense when Colombia midfielder Wilmar Barrios appeared to headbutt Jordan Henderson in the chest.
Somehow, that crazy act only earned Barrios a yellow card.
The match went to penalties after Harry Kane’s 57th-minute opener from the spot was cancelled out by a last-gasp header from Yerry Mina in the dying minutes of normal time.
By the end of a scoreless extra-time period, the Colombians had picked up a further five cautions – and the two sides were thoroughly sick of the sight of one another.
Such was the needle between both sets of players that Manchester City’s Stones couldn’t resist taking what looked to be a cheeky dig at the opposition when Dier slammed home the crucial spot-kick.
Watch: BBC’s epic montage after England’s first-ever World Cup shoot-out success
Alongside his central defensive partner Harry Maguire, Stones glanced back in the direction of a devastated Colombian side, including the aforementioned Barrios, with beaming smiles on their faces.
Not the most sporting moment you’ll ever see at a World Cup, but a satisfying one for many long-suffering England fans. You can check it out for yourself below.
Watch: John Stones mocks Colombia after England’s victory
After the euphoria of England’s success had died down, Stones attempted to rationalise his reaction by claiming that he had been celebrating in the direction of the England bench, rather than the Colombian players.
“Oh, I’ve seen that,” he said in a press conference after the incident.
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“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.”
That explanation, though, doesn’t tally with the images and video from the night itself, where Stones absolutely appears to be looking directly at Barrios while enjoying England’s moment of glory.
A spot of diplomacy from the Three Lions defender after the event? We’ll let you be the judge of that, but he certainly seemed to be having the time of his life after getting one over on the South American side.
Ultimately, of course, England couldn’t bring football home by winning the tournament, as Gareth Southgate’s men were edged out by Croatia after a close semi-final defeat.
England supporters will be hoping that this winter’s World Cup in Qatar can finally end their 56-year wait for major international silverware.
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