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World Cup | England are right to believe they have the beating of Colombia

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The various reactions on TV and social media to England's loss against Belgium in their Group G closer last night made for entertaining viewing and reading.

There were those who scoffed at how England were brought back to earth with a thud by Belgium's 'B' team after they had enjoyed opening victories against weak opposition in Tunisia and Panama.

That was to overlook the fact that England boss Gareth Southgate made eight changes to his team, compared to the nine made by his Belgian counterpart Roberto Martinez. 

"We've now got an opportunity to play Colombia and Sweden or Switzerland to get to a World Cup semi-final," gushed Gary Neville on ITV after the paint-drier that was his home nation's 1-0 defeat to the Red Devils.

The former England skipper listed off the impossible hurdles that blocked their way in previous tournaments to illustrate his view that this year's path looks that bit easier.

"98, Argentina round two. 2002, Brazil with Rivaldo and all those types of players in there. 2006, Ronaldo, Portugal. 2010, Germany. 2014, Italy and Uruguay in the group."

To be fair to Neville, he did admit that England could lose to Colombia but the general feeling from English pundits and supporters is that Southgate's charges have stumbled into the easier side of the draw with Sweden or Switzerland ready to be swept aside in the quarter-finals.

That is compared to Belgium's path of Japan, followed by Brazil who look like favourites for the tournament, as well as for their last-16 clash with Mexico.

Cue further scoffing on this side of the Irish Sea with many keen to point out that Colombia are no pushovers, and in fact, are now destined to win thanks to the stench of over-confidence wafting out of the England camp.

Personally, I feel if our next-door neighbours play at their best they will go through.

Colombia went to the wire in the South American qualifiers and just managed to get the point that they needed to nick the fourth automatic qualification spot with a final day 1-1 draw away to Peru, who were just a point behind them in the table before kick-off.

The draw came thanks to a James Rodriguez goal and in spite of goalkeeper David Ospina's best efforts to let the hosts back into the game with an own goal...more on those two in a moment.

Interestingly, Colombia failed to beat any of the three teams (Brazil, Uruguay & Argentina) above them in the table throughout qualification, they drew two (vs Uruguay & Brazil) and lost four.

There were also two draws with Chile and a home defeat to Paraguay in their penultimate game.

Jose Pekerman's side are also heavily reliant on James Rodriguez who had a hand in ten of their 21 goals (six goals and four assists) during qualification but his participation in the last-16 tie on Tuesday night is in doubt.

The Bayern Munich playmaker came into the tournament with a calf problem and started the Japan game on the bench before coming on for the last half-hour.

He provided two assists in the 90 minutes he played in the 3-0 win against Poland but limped off after just 30 minutes against Sengal and, having missed training today, is due to go for a scan tomorrow.

Rodriguez was badly missed through injury for four of the qualifiers and Pekerman has admitted to his squad's limitations in the past.

"Whenever we've a player missing it has hit us hard; we've had many ups and downs. If somebody doesn't have a good game, it has really stood out."

Music to the ears of Mr Southgate who will also be well aware of Colombia's other weakness; Ospina.

The Arsenal netminder was in awful form in the closing stages of the qualifiers and supporters of the London club are well aware of how poorly he can perform and how brittle his confidence is.

Ripe for the picking for an England side that's proven lethal with set-pieces at this tournament.

Colombia still have threats in the shape of striker Radamel Falcao and the rejuvenated Juan Quintero while there are still doubts over England's defence which has yet to be tested and could be punished if Colombia's attack clicks on the day.

Also, the lack of genuine midfielders at Southgate's disposal may become more apparent deeper into the tournament.

But there's no reason why Kane & Co. shouldn't be going into this game against the South Americans, fully in the belief that they can achieve their first World Cup knockout win since 2006.


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