Colombia vs England Preview: Three Lions aiming for first knockout stage success in 12 years

Colombia vs England Preview: Three Lions aiming for first knockout stage success in 12 years

Both nations have their eyes set on advancing through the "weaker" side of the tournament.

Harry Harris

England and Colombia will square off in Moscow on Tuesday evening with incredible amounts of pressure on either side.

For England, the  chance to secure their first knockout stage win in 12 years is a realistic one, while Colombia will be hoping to reach the same stage as they did in 2014. Both sides can relish in the fact that their side of the tournament draw is the far more favourable one, but a win on Tuesday night must come first.

After Colombia's opening game disappointment, Los Cafeteros bounced back quickly and secured top spot in Group H with two consecutive wins. England took six points from their first two games, before fielding a weaker side in the final group game, which sent them through Group G in second place.

Team News

Colombia: The big worry heading into Tuesday's match is the availability of James Rodriguez. Colombia's talisman was taken off injured after 30 minutes in their final group game, but after initial worries, the Bayern Munich midfielder looks like he'll feature. While it is good news he'll be fit, head coach Jose Pekerman will be worried about his star not being 100% in a crucial "win or go home" game. 

While most England fans will be focused on the familiar names such as Radamel Falcao, Davinson Sanchez and Juan Cuadrado, their attention should wander toward Juan Quintero. The River Plate midfielder has been Colombia's best performer through three games and will look to carry that strong form into their Round of 16 matchup. 

Projected XI: Ospina; Arias, Mina, D. Sanchez, Mojica; Uribe, C. Sanchez; Rodriguez, Quintero, Cuadrado; Falcao

England: There are bundles of pressure on the England players heading into Tuesday's game, as there is with every England game. Gareth Southgate's men have looked strong so far, but face their first real test against a talented Colombia side with aspirations of their own. Fortunately for the Three Lions, their lone injury issue may be over as Dele Alli looks set to come back into the lineup after struggling with a knock. 

If England are going to win their first tournament knockout game in 12 years, they'll be relying on a 23-year old from Walthamstow. Harry Kane currently leads the tournament with five goals and his hot form will be crucial to England's chances of reaching their first major final since 1966. 

Projected XI: Pickford; Stones, Walker, Maguire; Trippier, Henderson, Lingard, Dele, Rose; Kane, Sterling.

What to look out for

Regardless of Tuesday's outcome, this England side is different to those in the past. Gareth Southgate, unlike managers in the past, has been able to give England a sense of style and identity. Since taking over, the confidence of the squad has soared and you can see just how tight-knitted the players are on and off the pitch. 

Colombia are four years removed from an impressive run at the 2014 World Cup, but a lot has changed since then. James Rodriguez may still be their star, but the pressure on his shoulders has been lifted with contributions from the likes of Radamel Falcao and Jose Quintero. Their defence has also come on leaps and bounds, with the emergence of Davinson Sanchez and Yerry Mina in the heart of their back four.

The player to watch on Tuesday may be Manchester City star Raheem Sterling. Despite persistent outside criticism, Sterling remains one of England's brightest players and will look to finally open his World Cup account against Colombia. The winger's dazzling pace and constant runs in behind have threatened so far, but the 23-year old just hasn't found the back of the net yet.

For Colombia and England, they'll be thanking the football gods that they've been drawn on the "easier" side of the tournament. As we've seen time and time again in this tournament, anything can happen, so to both England and Colombia fans: the dream is very much alive.