Colombia tie England's biggest game in a decade, says Southgate

England's last-16 tie against Colombia is the biggest game the Three Lions has had in a decade, says Gareth Southgate.

Published : Jun 29, 2018 02:30 IST

Southgate is focused on facing Colombia on Tuesday, having left out stars in the game against Belgium.
Southgate is focused on facing Colombia on Tuesday, having left out stars in the game against Belgium.

Southgate is focused on facing Colombia on Tuesday, having left out stars in the game against Belgium.

Gareth Southgate feels England's World Cup second-round clash with Colombia is the team's biggest match in a decade.

England has not won a knockout game at a major tournament for 12 years, having surprisingly lost to Iceland in Euro 2016's last-16.

A 1-0 defeat to Belgium in Group G's final round of games on Thursday ensured the Three Lions cannot face Brazil in the quarter-finals, with either Sweden or Switzerland instead awaiting.

Southgate, though, is keen not to look too far ahead and is instead focused on facing Colombia in Tuesday, having left out stars including Golden Boot leader Harry Kane.

READ: Pekerman wary of confident England in last 16

"It was a pretty even game, they [Belgium] had better control of possession and better chances in the first half, we had good ones in the second," Southgate said to ITV. 

"It was a good test with the double objective, with half an eye on the knockout rounds.

"We want to win football matches so we're not happy to be beaten but what it means for the next round we don't really know.

"We feel it was a game we wanted to win but the knockout game is the biggest in a decade so we had to preserve our key players."

England understandably lacked cohesion having made eight changes from their 6-1 demolition of Panama at the weekend, in which captain Kane hit a hat-trick.

"Those who played gave everything and never stopped and created openings to get something from the game," Southgate said. "We can see our level and the level of the best and we want to keep improving.

"I think we talked about momentum shifts in games and we kept pressing to the end, the fans have been fantastic and they understand the most important thing."

Trent Alexander-Arnold became the fourth teenager to start a World Cup game for England and the Liverpool defender said Southgate's side is not plotting its possible route to the final.

"We weren't focused on that [paths to the final] before the game, we want to win every game possible and we're disappointed, that's the main thing," the 19-year-old said.

"You don't want to see smiles in the dressing room as you've got an easier route, you're always going to play the best teams in the world and there are no easy games, we're fully focused on Colombia.

"They did unbelievably well at the last World Cup - it's not going to be easy at all."

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