(CNN)Huddled on the halfway line, steeling themselves for yet more hurt, the England players bore the same expressions as the estimated 23.8 million watching on at home.
No nation has lost more penalty shootouts in the history of the World Cup.
Except this time it was different.
This time, as England midfielder Eric Dier found the net from 12 yards, the curse was broken and the burden was lifted.
With one kick of the ball in the Russian capital, a country paralyzed by fear finally exorcised its demons.
Cue pandemonium at the Spartak Stadium and on the streets of England some 1,500 miles away. Catharsis.
So this is what it feels like…
Nobody appreciated England’s victory over Colombia more keenly than the stars of the last generation — players who had won it all for their clubs but wilted under the weight of expectation for their country.
“Seriously now I know what it feels like,” said David Beckham, who missed two penalties for England at Euro 2004. “Wow.”
Sitting in the ITV broadcast studio alongside Lee Dixon and Gary Neville, former England striker Ian Wright had his head in his hands, unable to watch as Dier stepped up. As the ball crossed the line, all semblance of professionalism was lost as the three erupted with sheer elation.
It was a similar story at the CNN Center, as Bianna Golodryga crossed live to World Sport anchor Don Riddell. Glued to his monitor, hands locked in prayer, the English broadcaster temporarily lost all ability to speak, putting his job on hold as Dier began his run-up.
“Oh my goodness, oh my goodness!” came the subsequent reaction. “I apologize for showing my emotions. If you know anything about England in major tournaments and the curse of the penalty shootout, it is absolutely awful… Finally the curse is over.”
Even other countries were aware of magnitude of the occasion.
L’Equipe’s headline, “Chasseurs de Fantomes,” branded the new-look England team “Ghost Hunters.”
Meanwhile in Spain, the front page of AS proclaimed “Inglaterra va en serio” — in other words, “England are serious.”
‘It’s coming home’
Twenty-two years after co-writing and performing cult song “Three Lions,” English comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner took in the action at home on the sofa. Their reaction?
“It’s just about still coming home.”
That refrain has been the talk of every town in England since the tournament kicked off, the line increasingly blurred between self-ironizing national pride and genuine belief the team can, in fact, go all the way.
There were 127,000 tweets per minute about England vs Colombia at the moment Dier’s penalty beat David Ospina .
Whatever happens in England’s quarterfinal against Sweden on Saturday, Russia 2018 has given the world the following memes.
England’s wait for a first World Cup penalty shootout victory is over. At least for now, the 52-year wait to lift the trophy goes on.