World Cup Round of 16 Preview: England vs. Colombia
Colombia vs. England
It’s a shame that both teams won’t have a chance at making the semi-finals but that’s the luck of the draw. Sometimes you will get some really even matchups in the Round of 16, and this time it’s between two countries who have something to prove.
England finished second in Group G and wasn’t really that bothered. It was tough sledding for around 60 minutes against Tunisia as a penalty led the African team back into the game. But England kept pelting the Tunisian goal with chances and eventually one went in. It just happened to take place in stoppage time, off a set piece, and scored by Harry Kane. They went on and crushed Panama in the next game and didn’t look back.
With six points, they had already clinched qualification to the next round before their final game against Belgium. Both teams benched a majority of their top name players as Gareth Southgate used this match to rest and play some of the guys who weren’t going to normally play in the World Cup to begin with. It was a game which England controlled for a majority of it. But it was the Belgians who got ahead thanks to a wonder goal by Adnan Januzaj, setting England up for a match with Group H winners Colombia. This will be the hardest team they have faced yet, and England will have to make sure they have a solid structure in defense, especially with the back three, as Colombia will threaten to pounce on any mistake.
Colombia won a chaotic Group H (which was my favorite group). Their campaign started off on a tough hill as an early red card against Japan in their first game saw them go down 1-0. Colombia got the equalizer before the first half ended but the second half provided a different story. Japan got a great chance on goal with a man advantage and converted, resulting in a shocking 2-1 win. In a must-win game, Colombia battered a dejected Poland squad 3-0 with stars James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao leading the way. Both were super instrumental in all of Colombia’s goals with James providing the assist of the tournament so far with a great outswinger towards Juan Cuadrado as he raced past the Polish backline. Colombia controlled its own destiny heading into the final game, and a header by Yerry Mina in the second half was enough to see them past a sneaky Senegal team. Just like that, even after the debacle in the first match, they were through.
Now Colombia moves onto face England and it will be a big test for them. Yes, Colombia has been here before but this English team is well drilled and dangerous. They might not look the most flashy but they get the job done. Colombia is more of the opposite. It’s more about the flair and the creative powers of their top two midfielders in James and Quintero. If neither of those guys can get it going, it will be tough sledding. The health of James is also key. He limped off after 30 minutes against Senegal and his status for the game is in question. In all honesty, this will be the difference in the game, if James can’t play you honestly can’t give Colombia a shot. Not like a team against England.
Prediction: All reports have made it seem like James will play. Colombia’s attack is dangerous and even though England’s is too, Colombia’s are way more dynamic and creative. I expect this to be a shootout and one of the better games in the tournament. Dele Alli will be the key for England. If he can be a big presence in the midfield and slow down James, England will have an easier time controlling the game. When the pace of the game is slow, it fits England. If they start running around all over the place, the edge goes to Colombia
This is going to be a wild game.