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FIFA World Cup 2018: In Russia, England plan revolution

Colombia up for the fight but hopes rise on Gareth Southgate’s young team

football Updated: Jul 02, 2018 23:27 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Moscow
FIFA World Cup 2018,World Cup 2018,World Cup Russia
England Coach Gareth Southgate attends a training session.(REUTERS)

Compared to their predecessors, Gareth Southgate’s England started the World Cup with relatively low expectations. This was a young side that was not expected to be a contender for the title.

England still remain a couple of wins away from being perceived genuine challengers but after the events of the last couple of weeks, hopes have soared in their country.

With some of the pre-tournament favourites already out and England finishing second in their group, which hands them a relatively easier draw than what a top-place finish would have, Southgate’s team will be buoyant ahead of their Round of 16 clash against Colombia at the Otkritie Arena here on Tuesday.

There is a sense of confidence among the players after encouraging performances against Tunisia and Panama. But unlike previous World Cups, Southgate’s team has preferred to remain low-key.

“As a group of lads, it is a young squad but we still have experienced players and the team spirit is amazing at the moment. We are excited and enjoying the World Cup,” said midfielder Jesse Lingard at a press conference at the team’s base in Repino on Sunday.

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“It feels like a new revolution. The manager has come in with great ideas, great ideas in the way he wants us to play. The formation suits us perfectly,” he said.

However, beating Colombia is anything but an easy proposition. More so since defeating Ecuador 1-0 in the Round of 16 at the 2006 World Cup, England are yet to win a knockout stage game at a major tournament.

Southgate made wholesale changes for the last group game against Belgium, which England lost 1-0, but the core of the squad will be back on Tuesday.

The only change to the team that started against Panama is expected to be Dele Alli replacing Ruben Loftus-Cheek after recovering from a knock he had received in the game against Tunisia.

Skipper Harry Kane, with his five goals in the tournament so far, will continue to be the key man up front.

For Colombia, it was redemption against Senegal last week after a 2-1 loss to Japan in their opening game had cast doubts over their Round of 16 hopes.

A 3-0 win over Poland was followed by a tight 1-0 victory over the African side. Jose Pekerman’s team, however, received a blow in that game with James Rodriguez departing with a calf strain 30 minutes into the game.

Pekerman had expressed concern over Rodriguez’s injury but subsequent reports in the Colombian press have indicated that it may not be as bad as was initially feared.

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The Bayern Munich midfielder will be expected to feature in the game at some point. Even if he doesn’t start, Colombia have enough firepower to topple England.

Juan Quintero will be main creative force in the side in case Rodriguez doesn’t recover in time while Juan Cuadrado and Radamel Falcao will both be potent threats to the English backline.

Both Cuadrado and Falcao had frustrating spells in England earlier in their career but have thrived elsewhere.

The duo may have a point to prove when they take to the field on Tuesday evening.

On the other hand, Colombia have a more than capable centre-back pairing of Yerry Mina and Davinson Sanchez who is a club teammate of Kane at Tottenham Hotspur. However, Pekerman’s side will be a bit wary of England’s pace and ability on the flanks.

As the coach summed up after the Senegal clash, the knockout games will be ‘completely full-on, to the death matches’. Colombia will be up for the fight.

First Published: Jul 02, 2018 20:22 IST