The Three Lions have not made a quarter final of the World Cup in 12 years, an unsatisfactory record for a nation that boasts the most popular league in world football. Despite all the money that is pumped into the beautiful game in this country, at international level it has not clicked for England for quite some time.
However with Spain, Germany and Argentina gone, there is a sense of optimism in the country. England will avoid any of the major favourites until the final at least and that is generating a buzz around the country that has not been felt for well over a decade.
That said, Gareth Southgate’s side can not be caught looking too far ahead. Many people believe their loss to Belgium is a blessing due to where England ended up in the draw, but there are still great teams left in this competition, one of which they play on Tuesday.
Colombia might not be a nation that is big in stature in the world of football, but their talent can not be denied. Their performance against Poland in the group stages showed exactly what they are capable of on their day and they showed they can win without being at their best against Senegal.
Colombia’s main threat comes in the form of James Rodriguez. The 26 year old broke out on the main stage with a Golden Boot winning performance in Brazil four years ago, and his 21 International goals place him third in Colombia’s all time top scorer list. Rodriguez is at the centre of Colombia’s creativity, but there is doubts that he will play on Tuesday.
The on loan Bayern Munich man limped off with a calf injury against Senegal and is a doubt for the clash against England. The medical staff are in a race to get him fit for the upcoming match as he is key to their chances.
Colombia are far from a one man team though. Up front hey have one of the most prolific strikers in the world with Radamel Falcao despite having lost a yard of pace, on the wing they have the pacey Juan Cuadrado and schemer Juan Quintero. Los Cafeteros have a very good centre-back pairing in Yerry Mina and Davison Sanchez. Colombia are a side with quality up and down the pitch and should not be under-estimated.
England have their own talisman in Harry Kane who will return to the starting line-up after being rested against Belgium. The Tottenham striker is the top scorer in the competition with five goals, and with Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Costa being amongst those eliminated from the competition. Right now, he is the favourite for the Golden boot.
There will be questions about England’s momentum after the loss against Belgium though. Southgate did rest a lot of his first eleven in that defeat and the momentum they built up over the first two games could have been lost or diminished in some way. Croatia did the same against Iceland in their last group game and even though they won, they did not look as good against Denmark. Will the gamble pay off for Southgate? Or will his decision come back to haunt him?
England have no injury issues heading into the match, so expect the starting 11 from the opening game to take to the field for this one.
Many of the players knocking on the door for a starting place failed to make an impact against Belgium with the exception of Danny Rose who overall had a good game. Marcus Rashford did not do enough to bump out Raheem Sterling, and Dele Alli will be expected to return to the side after his injury issues.
Colombia’s big injury concern is as documented Rodriguez who isa major doubt to start against England due to a calf injury. Aside from that, Colombia should be able to line-up at full strength on Tuesday.
Colombia might be the second best team England could face in this half of the draw with the best being Croatia. Colombia are a huge threat going forward and if they play the way they did against Poland then England may be going home without football.
However with Rodriguez likely to miss the game, Colombia will be without their best player and most creative outlet. Without ‘James’ they looked a lot more toothless going forward with set pieces being their strength in the attacking third.
They do not defend set pieces as well as they attack them though, and England can take advantage of their weakness in this area. The Three Lions have looked dangerous from corners this World Cup and have scored more than any other team from set pieces. The Colombian against Senegal were also guilty of conceding possession on multiple occasions also, and with the pace Southgate has at his disposal that could become a real focal point for England’s attack.
That and the injury to Rodriguez could be a deciding factor in this match-up. With their number 10, Colombia stand a much better chance of defeating England , especially with the defence looking shaky at times, but without him I think England will do enough to edge their way to the quarter-finals.
Prediction: Colombia 1-2 England
England face Colombia in the World Cup round of 16 on Tuesday at 7pm BST
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