19:00 BST, Tuesday 3rd July, Spartak Stadium (Moscow, Russia), BBC One
A dramatic 1-0 victory over Senegal ensured Colombia qualified for the last-16 at their opponents’ expense, meaning that we’re without an African nation in the knockout phase for the first time since 1982.
England were through prior to their game with Belgium, but there was the matter of first and second place to settle. With a 1-0 defeat – that Gareth Southgate wasn’t bothered by – the Three Lions finished second on six points and reached their first knockout appearance since 2010, having gone out at the group stage four years ago.
It’s now where the real journey begins and, having been drawn on the ‘easier’ side of the bracket, the pressure and expectation begins to mount on England.
Last Time Out
Senegal 0-1 Colombia
A powerful header from Yerry Mina propelled Colombia into a last-16 tie with England at the expense of their Group H opponents Senegal, who narrowly missed out to Japan having received more yellow cards.
As one of the most open groups of the World Cup, Colombia headed into their final fixture in need of a victory to reach the last-16 of the tournament, but they delivered when it mattered.
Colombians collectively held their breath in the 16th minute when it seemed as though Davinson Sanchez had given away a penalty, though VAR correctly overturned the referee’s initial decision as replays showed Sanchez had won the ball in one of the tackles of the tournament.
Although James Rodriguez was forced off through injury after half an hour – four years to the day of his Goal of the Tournament in Brazil – Colombia raised their game in the second half and took the lead through Mina’s header in the 74th minute to go through as Group H winners.
England 0-1 Belgium
During a game in which neither side wanted to win, but made it seem as though they were trying, England B suffered defeat to Belgium B as the Red Devils topped the group as winners.
Gareth Southgate made eight changes – with Harry Kane remaining on the bench – whilst Roberto Martinez made nine, demonstrating how victory was low down the list of priorities for each manager.
The Three Lions barely threatened Belgium after they took the lead through Adnan Januzaj’s brilliant curling strike, though Marcus Rashford should have equalised when sent through one-on-one with Thibaut Courtois.
The main concern for Jose Pekerman is whether James Rodriguez will be fit, as he was substituted after half an hour against Senegal. “He was fully fit in training,” Pekerman said, which makes his injury extremely worrying.
If unavailable, Luis Muriel will likely come into the starting XI, either on the left flank in a 4-2-3-1, or partnering Radamel Falcao up front in a 4-4-2. Without Rodriguez, this puts the onus on playmaker Juan Quintero to deliver.
Having made eight changes for the Belgium game, Gareth Southgate will reinstate his big guns for the knockout phase.
Harry Kane will return to lead the line alongside Raheem Sterling, with Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford benched, whilst Kieran Trippier will replace Trent Alexander-Arnold at right wingback.
Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire will come into the back five in place of Gary Cahill and Phil Jones, whilst Dele Alli – alongside Jesse Lingard – will start his first game in midfield since the opener with Tunisia.
It remains to be seen whether Southgate will deploy two holding midfielders – Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson – to further protect what seems a vulnerable defence.
Key Battle: Juan Cuadrado (Colombia) vs Kieran Trippier (England)
Having created seven chances for England and establishing himself as the first choice set piece taker, Kieran Trippier has had a storming World Cup as, arguably, the best right back of the tournament.
Playing as a wing back and having to patrol the entire right flank single-handedly, Trippier has become a fulcrum of attacking play with his crossing and first time deliveries, but as of yet he’s only played against Panama and Tunisia, with defending naturally taking a backseat role.
Colombia will be different, however, and he’ll have to find a balance between his duties to, firstly, wrestle attacking control of the flank and defend against a more potent threat.
Without James Rodriguez, that threat comes from Juan Cuadrado, the Juventus winger that has taken on a prominent role for his national team. Despite playing on separate flanks, both Trippier and Cuadrado have key roles to play in this last-16 fixture.
Before the World Cup began, Southgate admitted that there was only room for one pivot in his first XI, with either Eric Dier or Jordan Henderson having to settle for a place on the bench. This allows another more creative midfielder to come into the side and offer more support for the front two, though it can leave the defence exposed.
Against Colombia, therefore, it might be more practical to drop one of Alli or Lingard for a double pivot to sit in front of the back five in Dier and Henderson. This will protect against the counter-attack and doubles up on playmaker Juan Quintero in the middle of the pitch.
The concern, however, is that a double pivot reduces the creative capacity and overall fluidity of the side and could leave Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling isolated up front.
Southgate deployed only one pivot in the warm-up games, as well as for all three group stage matches, and for the sake of coherency, he may well stick with what’s been working.
Three words better than ‘I love you’
‘Corner for England.’
Southgate has clearly placed an importance on set pieces, with Kane netting twice from corners against Tunisia, twice from the spot against Panama, whilst John Stones, too, bagged a brace from set pieces. It’s telling, moreover, that Kieran Trippier has created the most chances for England thus far.
Against Colombia, however, England’s well-worked set piece routines may not have the same effect given the physical presence of both Yerry Mina and Davinson Sanchez.
The Barcelona centre back, particularly, is a threat at both ends of the pitch and the Three Lions will have to ensure they’re switched on when defending from corners and free-kicks. Set pieces should prove important.
Prediction: Colombia 1-2 England
Japan, naturally, would have been the easier of the two potential outcomes int he last-16, but Colombia are beatable, as the Blue Samurai proved in Group H’s opening fixture.
They’re slow to get going, so the key for England is to put them under early pressure and take the chances that come their way. Forbidding the opportunity to grow into the game in the second half will be essential in managing the game.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss all the action from Day 15 of the World Cup in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.
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