Colombia v England – Spartak Stadium, Moscow July 3, 2018
England succumbed to Belgium 0-1 in their last Group G outing resulting in the Three Lions now having to face Colombia in the Round of 16. Colombia emerged top in the Group H cluster beating Senegal by a solitary goal. Los Cafeteros were dealt a severe blow going into the crucial June 3 clash with their star player Jamie Rodriguez unlikely to feature following a calf injury he sustained in the Senegal game last Thursday. Colombia coach Jose Pekerman is a worried man, for besides Rodriguez’s he is having to deal with below-par performances from striker Radamel Falcao, Colombia’s other mainstay. Whether Sevilla forward Luis Muriel will be a able replacement to Rodriguez remains to be seen. Colombia have been brilliant in patches. While the mid-field and back were mediocre in games against Japan and Senegal, the young back-line of Santiago Arias, Yerry Mina and Davison Sanchez found the aggressive pressing by opponents extremely discomforting, especially in the Senegal game where they could consider themselves fortunate not be down by a goal or two. Their only stellar performance came in their 3-0 win over Poland who really aren’t a team to be reckoned with.The only consistent figure in all of Colombia’s fixtures has been River Plate midfielder Juan Quintero. Apart from his goal in the win over Poland, he had a hand in 2 more of his side’s goals in the World Cup. Both Quintero and Rodriguez made quite a duo until the latter succumbed to injury. With no Rodriguez around, Pekerman will heavily depend on the play-making skills and attacking instincts of the 25-year old to get him results against the English on Tuesday.
Coach Gareth Southgate who made eight changes from England’s Panama game could come to regret his decision to go with a depleted side against Belgium, for even a draw would have ensured the Three Lions a fixture against a much easier Japan in the Round of 16. Japan have managed to punch far above their weight so far, being 61st in the FIFA rankings and six places below a Panama side that the English walloped 6-1 not very long ago. England could possibly start brushing up their defense with Phil Jones and Gary Cahill making way for Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier. Del Alli, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane who were rested for the Belgium fixture will be back spear-heading England’s attack. The mid-field will see Jordan Henderson and Jesse Lingard both of whom will have crucial roles to play in setting up a constructive England offensive. Harry Kane & co. will look to unsettle a Colombian defense that has looked mostly ragged despite their 2 wins and pole position in Group H.
England’s unbeaten streak in the international arena came to a halt against Belgium, their defeat at the Kaliningrad Stadium being their first after the one to Iceland in the Euro Cup way back in 2016. The Three lions have never lost to Colombia, having won 3 and drawn 2 from the 5 times they have met since 1970. But history will have little to do when they run into each other after almost 13 years at Moscow’s Spartak Stadium on July 3rd. As things stand, the Three Lions have a slight edge as the odds suggest with 2-1 looking a likely score.
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