England’s route to the knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup seems to have been directed by a Sat Nav. We got there in the end, but it wasn’t the most straightforward route and involved taking a short cut that’s probably not the easiest way to reach our destination. But we’re through to the Round of 16 stage and now face a tasty-looking clash against Colombia.
After victories against Tunisia and Panama, The Three Lions were through and so had the ability to rest players for the third and final group game against Belgium. The big debate being whether Gareth Southgate would actually try and win the game, given that second spot gifted an easier Quarter Final match-up. In the end, a 1-0 defeat made that option a reality. But presents England with a slightly tougher immediate proposition: José Pékerman’s Cafeteros of Colombia…
England team news
Expect ‘Southy’, as no one calls him, to revert back to one of the starting XIs that served him so well in the first two group games. If there are any changes from those games, they’ll probably be enforced (unless Rose is favoured over Young at left wing-back). Dele Alli should return from his injury and the only minor concern is over John Stones, who picked up a niggle in the first half against Belgium. But he should make it.
Predicted line-up: Pickford, Stones, Maguire, Walker, Trippier, Young, Henderson, Lingard, Alli, Sterling, Kane.
Colombia team news
He was the star man of the entire 2014 tournament, his performances earning him a big money move to Real Madrid. But in 2018, James Rodríguez has struggled with a calf injury, one that saw him limp off in Colombia’s third group stage match against Senegal. So it looks like he’ll miss out against England.
Colombia have Falcao in form, though. He’ll start, captain the side and provide the biggest threat to England’s back line with his clever movement. There’s talent throughout the team, but also more than enough to exploit for Kane and Sterling. Spurs centre back Davidson Sánchez has quality, but he also has a huge clanger in him. And as for the ‘keeper? Well, Arsenal fans will know he’s packed full of clangers. But no one’s sure if he has the quality…
Predicted line-up: Ospina, Arias, Mina, D Sánchez, Mojica, C Sánchez, Uribe, Cuadrado, Quintero, Muriel, Falcao.
There’s no reason to think that Gareth S will alter his formation or his fundamental tactics for this match. So far, England have struck mostly at set pieces and this will absolutely feature again on Tuesday night. Especially given David Ospina’s vampire-like aversion to crosses. Kieran Trippier should have an absolute field day/night.
England could also look to set their forwards off with through balls that tempt centre back pairing Davidson Sánchez and Barcelona’s Yerry Mina into one or more of the lunging challenges that they’re so tempted to make. We’ve seen how many penalties are getting given in this World Cup, it could be a smart move.
Radamel Falcao needs to be watched at all times, though. He’ll occupy the back three of England no end. Which could make space for Luis Muriel to drift into dangerous areas from the left. Kyle Walker will need to keep an eye out for his runs.
If we want to get a lil’ dirty, we could wind up Johan Mojica, he appears quite easily riled.
The two countries have only ever faced each other five times, with England never having lost. The record stands at three victories and two draws. The only real competitive match saw England dispatching their yellow-clad rivals 2-0 at France ’98, courtesy of goals from Darren Anderton and David Beckham.
The last meeting featured a Micky Owen hat trick as England put Colombia to Simón Bolívar’s sword in a 3-2 friendly victory in the Giants Stadium in New Jersey (oddly enough).
England go into the game as red hot favourites. You can get a best price of 5/4 on Kane & Co. doing the business in 90 minutes, with the draw at 9/4. Colombia can be found at 3/1 with most bookmakers and 4s if you look hard enough.
If you fancy England but don’t trust them to keep a clean sheet, a win but one in which both teams score can be taken on at just shy of 5/1.
As for first scorers, Harry leads the way again, as you might expect. A paltry 3/1 is all that’s available on the Spurs man bagging first. Falcao is 6/1, Lingard 8s and Juan Cuadrado 12s.
Sure, Colombia pose a tougher test than Japan would have, but let’s be realistic. Despite topping their group, the South Americans are yet to really impress. In six halves of football played so far, they’ve only shone in one – the second half of the Poland game. And Poland didn’t turn up for it. True, you can argue that England have only rolled over two poor sides and lost against Belgium. But the Belgium game was a non-event.
With James Rodriguez out and a suspect back line prone to making errors, there’s absolutely no reason to think that England – if they approach the game correctly and play to their strengths – can’t win this and win it well. That said, we’re yet to keep a clean sheet in the tournament.
England to win 2-1. A fresh-legged Kane to shine again in front of goal.
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