John Stones has branded Colombia “the dirtiest team I’ve ever come up against” and revealed the South Americans attempted to distract England’s penalty takers during their dramatic shootout victory.
Tuesday’s last-16 clash was a brazenly ill-tempered affair, with England fractious at times but Colombia guilty of flouting disciplinary norms throughout the encounter.
Among the worst examples of misconduct were Wilmar Barrios’ headbutt on Jordan Henderson, which was leniently punished with one of six Colombian cautions, Johan Mojica’s attempt to rake the penalty spot with his studs before Harry Kane’s second-half spot-kick and the shoulder barge on Raheem Sterling by fitness coach Eduardo Julio Urtasun.
England might have emerged victorious, with a quarter-final date against Sweden as their prize, but Stones was still seething.
“The game was so strange, probably the dirtiest team I’ve ever come up against,” he said.
“That’s in respect of when we won the penalty, surrounding the referee, pushing the referee, the headbutt that you’ve all seen, scuffing the penalty spot, a lot of off-the-ball things you probably haven’t heard about. All the sort of things that you don’t really hear in a football match.
“That’s down to their players, it’s their image and how they’ve represented their country. Some things I hadn’t even seen, like the incident with Raheem and one of their staff. I’ve never seen a game like this before and how they behaved. I thought there could have been several red cards.”
He also accused them of unsportsmanlike antics during the climax of the match.
“If you watch it back they were saying a lot of things to us while the lads were walking up to take the penalties.” he said. “There was a lot of movement on their behalf. The lads kept a cool head and credit to them.”
The Manchester City defender could not resist adding a little salt into the wounds too, adding: “To beat them at football – you can’t do anything better than that. That will hurt more than us getting into a scrap with them and they get one of our players sent off.
“At the end of the day they’re back on the plane, we’re still here.”
Apart from a few bumps and bruises earned at Spartak Stadium, with Jamie Vardy the only player unavailable to train on Thursday, England’s next task is to leave their grievances in the rear-view mirror.
The prospect of taking on Sweden in Samara with a World Cup semi-final at stake should be enough to focus the minds. And if that does not do it, the increasingly fevered reactions of fans in England should.
A walk around the sleepy town of Repino, where England are based, or through the halls of their hermetically sealed hotel might hint help the squad stay level, but there is no hiding from the rising joy and expectation Gareth Southgate’s men are generating.
Referencing the refrain from terrace anthem ‘Three Lions’ – which has once again surged up the charts and dominated streaming platforms – Stones added: “We’d like to bring it home.
“We want to make people proud back home, the nation proud of the England team. The dream is there, and why not?
“Everyone’s getting behind us in their thousands. I’m getting videos and pictures from my friends back home watching the game, in the pubs, wherever they are in the country.
“We’re in a bit of a bubble here, we can’t really get out to socialise, so to be able to experience that from where we are here through our friends is massively important to us.
“To be getting the videos through of everybody celebrating is kind of like a home from home. We want to keep performing and keep making those nights.”
Sweden’s players will doubtless be thinking exactly the same and England are prepared for a tense, tight outing against familiar opponents.
“I think if you say it’s an easy game in the quarter-final of a World Cup then you are pretty stupid to say that. They’ve got a lot of quality,” said Stones.
“We know what we’re up against. Sometimes these teams can throw you, they can go kind of under the radar, but there is no question they are a good team, they wouldn’t be where they are if they weren’t.”