England vs Colombia: Southgate's men out to face first real test

A win against the industrious South Americans can open up an easy route for the Three Lions.

England's Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Danny Welbeck take part in a training session on the eve of their pre-quarterfinal match against Colombia.   -  Getty Images

The English nation’s eternal dream of matching the batch of 1966 in winning a world crown will never have a better chance with many higher-ranked teams already falling by the wayside in the ongoing FIFA World Cup.

The Three Lions, after taking it easy in its last group game against Belgium, will face its first real test in Russia as it pulls up its socks to take on Colombia. But a win against the industrious South Americans can open up an easy route for Gareth Southgate’s men with Switzerland or Sweden and Russia or Croatia blocking its way to the final.

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“We have to look at this one game. We’re in the last 16. We want to be in the quarterfinals. But it’s a game of football,” England manager Gareth Southgate said, refusing to drawn in on a debate about the future.

“I really believe in the young group of players, who are still inexperienced. It will be one of their biggest games and we’ve always got to keep that context for the players,” he said.

“We have to set our minds to control what we can and keep the level of performance.”

Read: Colombia to wait on James Rodriguez fitness

The manager, who rested eight of his first-choice players in the inconsequential clash in Kaliningrad, is expected to recall the squad that secured a 2-1 win over Tunisia in its second Group G game. Skipper Harry Kane, commanding the top-scorers race, will come back to lead the line with Raheem Sterling, who, too, will return after an insipid display from Marcus Rashford in the Belgium game.

The fit-again Dele Alli and Kieran Trippier will provide the pace and width in Southgate’s 3-5-2 system.

 

Colombia, still fretting over the injury suffered by James Rodriguez in the game against Senegal, has the firepower to prove Southgate and England’s calculations wrong. Jose Pekereman, in his sixth year at the helm, will operate a 4-2-3-1 formation with skipper Radamel Falcao, back in form with AS Monaco, providing the goal-scoring threat. “I think the most important thing is to keep creating possibilities without losing possession. My team has managed to develop in this sense. We are quite stable even when things turn difficult,” Pekerman said.

Also read: Lingard and England ready to continue family affair in Russia

The former Argentine national coach, who worked wonders with the country’s youth system, will bank on this pluckiness of his team and perhaps a sprinkle of stardust from Rodriguez or Falcao to derail English dreams.    

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