England’s defence holds the key to Colombia World Cup clash
The path is clear for England. Beat Colombia, see off Sweden or Switzerland and bulldoze past Russia or Croatia for a place in the World Cup Final.
Simple, right? Well, maybe not. Tuesday night’s round-of-16 clash with Radamel Falcao and co. represents a real tripwire en-route to a potential final on the 15th July.
The Three Lions have the firepower to see off La Tricolor. Harry Kane is the 6/5 favourite to Score Anytime for a reason.
But it’s the defence which could prove the undoing for Gareth Southgate’s men. Being tight at the back is one of the key qualities needed for any side to win the World Cup.
Only Italy in 1938 have gone the entire tournament without keeping a clean sheet before ultimately lifting the famous trophy.
England have yet to face any real pressure at the back in their three matches against Tunisia, Panama and Belgium. Yet Jordan Pickford has failed to keep a clean sheet in each encounter.
That’s not just down to him. It’s down to haphazard defending which has presented gilt-edge chances to below-par opposition.
Defensive lapses have been responsible for each of the three goals the Three Lions have conceded thus far. Kyle Walker swung an arm to give away a penalty against Tunisia.
Slack marking was at fault for Panama’s consolation in a match where the Panamanians could have had two or three goals, had they been more clinical.
Meanwhile, Danny Rose was easily turned for Adnan Januzaj’s strike in Rostov last week.
England’s opponents so far have all been wasteful in their forward play. Colombia won’t be so charitable in Moscow.
The South Americans will be operating at near full-strength tomorrow evening, with the possible exception of James Rodriguez. The Real Madrid player picked up a knock against Senegal and faces a race against time to get fit for the round-of-16 encounter.
Should he miss out it’s likely that Luis Muriel will come in to replace him as part of a four-pronged attack with Falcao leading the line.
His pace, movement and ability to exploit lapses in concentration could prove a real headache against an England side which has shown itself capable of switching off at crucial times.
Juan Cuadrado and Juan Quintero are the prime candidates to take full advantage of the forward’s play in the absence of Rodriguez.
Colombia will create chances at the Otkritie Arena on Tuesday. They have the look of a side growing into the tournament.
With each performance they have looked slicker, more polished and more dangerous going forward.
England too, have impressed so far. But it’s this match-up that will provide us with a real sense of where the team are at, and whether they have the necessary credentials to go all the way in Russia.
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