Well, it’s already been better than the last World Cup for England. Gareth Southgate has breathed new life into this team and got the whole nation behind them. Having lost to Belgium in their final group game, the Three Lions earned an excellent runner-up prize in a favourable run to the final.
There are no World Cup seeds on England’s side of the pyramid and if they can win this game, they should have a relatively simple quarter-final fixture. England face a real test in Colombia though, who haven’t looked overly impressive so far but definitely have the talent to hurt this England team.
The Three Lions defence hasn’t kept a clean sheet yet this tournament and they face a talented front four, three of which won their respective leagues this season. The other is Colombia’s all-time top scorer Radamel Falcao, who will be eager to show England fans what he’s capable of after a less than spectacular venture to the Premier League. It has the makings of a great game and one that England will be eager to start strongly to give themselves the best chance of victory.
Opinions were divided over preparations for the Belgium game as Southgate opted to rest his players. With nine changes from the team that started this tournament against Tunisia, England were bested by an also heavily rotated Belgium.
It gave star men like Harry Kane the extra breather which will hopefully pay dividends against Colombia. The concern is that the result has derailed England’s momentum somewhat going into the all-important knockout rounds, but only time will tell if Southgate’s gamble will pay off.
England won their first two games in uncharacteristically comfortable style though, scoring eight and conceding just twice. That’s more goals than England managed in their last two World Cups combined and only the second time this millennium that they’ve won two of their group games.
Colombia's World Cup meanwhile got off to a dreadful start as they lost to Japan 2-1, largely thanks to a penalty and early red card. They quickly corrected things with a 3-0 thumping over group seeds Poland in their next game to put them back in the driving seat.
They then faced a stiff test against a Senegal side that only needed a point to qualify and despite not producing a showcase encounter, Colombia found a way through to match England’s points total for the group stage.
England and Colombia have met each other five times before and the Three Lions have never tasted defeat to the South American side.
The last competitive meeting of the two sides came in the final group stage game at France 1998. Goals from Darren Anderton and David Beckham gave England a comfortable victory as they advanced to the knockout rounds.
The sides had met in a friendly three years before, in a game best remembered for Rene Higuita’s famous scorpion kick save.
Colombia and England both suffered scares to key men in their final group games. The one outfield first-team player that started the fixture with Belgium was John Stones and unfortunately, he came off during the game and was promptly patched up on the substitutes bench.
Colombia had concerns of their own involving the 2014 Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez who also had to come off for treatment in their final game against Senegal. Early signs are good for both sides though as both players have since joined training and are expected to start in this match.
Colombia (4-2-3-1): Ospina, Arias, Mina, Sanchez, Mojica, Sanchez, Uribe, Cuadrado, Quintero, Rodriguez, Falcao
England (5-3-2): Pickford, Trippier, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Young, Henderson, Lingard, Alli, Sterling, Kane
England’s biggest area of concern is that back three which has continued to look stretched and error-ridden throughout the group stage. Southgate is unlikely to switch the game plan now so those wing backs will likely have to do a lot more tracking than attacking this time out.
Colombia are also pretty handy at the back, their defence hasn’t conceded a goal when they’ve had 11 men on the pitch yet this tournament.
Still, England showed enough in their group stage games to suggest the Colombians won't be looking forward to this fixture either. Harry Kane is on form and is very difficult to stop when he’s on the kind of run he is. Expect plenty of goals and for England to just edge it.
Prediction Colombia 2 - 3 England