Russia World Cup 2018 ‘Round of Sixteen’ (knockout) England face ‘Columbia’ – will it burst the bubble?

   

 

Many England fans still think that playing Columbia in 3 days’ time as their first opponent in the ‘knockouts’ should be a breeze – they forget that there are ‘no easy games’ at the World Cup, don’t they? [Just ask the Germany manager about it, eh?].

Its quite true that Columbia haven’t been in all that impressive form so far yet in these World Cup finals, but the threat they pose to England shouldn’t be underestimated.

They understandably lost their first game because they went down to 10-men within minutes (on a red card), and that resulted in them as a consequence also conceding the early goal –yet at the end they only went down 2-1, so their defence must be reasonably strong. In their second match they kept their opponents out of the game with a decisive performance, so won comfortably 3-0. In their third group game they were indeed lacklustre, and other than their goal, they hardly attempted a single shot in the whole match, but they doggedly thwarted their opponents (often the better side at times), who spent the final 20 minutes pushing for an equaliser but failed to find a breakthrough.

How does all that compare with England, then?

Well, England’s performances so far haven’t been anything to write home about either, have they?

No, we won the first match despite the team having made very, very, very hard work of it all, when importantly the second half performance was utterly disappointing in them not making many clear chances at all, so we were just lucky by getting the winning goal in the dying minutes of extra time, weren’t we?

However, the second game was against, out of their depths, World Cup finals’ newbies, so it was a victorious rout for England in the first half, but that was followed by a pretty dire second half display by our team, with their sloppy mistakes going mostly unpunished.

The third and final group (fake contest?) game just 2 days ago turned out to be a high-stake gamble by the manager in fielding the second XI (simply to give them a game-time outing? A flimsy excuse?), and all it showed was that they weren’t a team, and that none of the second-choice players’ disjointed performance warranted them replacing the current first choices [The only good news being that we ‘unintendedly’ lost, so continue the quest towards the Final within the ‘easier’ half of the draw]. Oh yes, it may have given the first team a valuable rest, but it was a decision to be (rightly?) widely slated by the professional pundits, wasn’t it?

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind though that so far in the competition, England have not been ‘tested’, hence the outcome against albeit inconsistent Columbia [Rank 16] is ‘problematical’, as they are a different level of opposition and certainly aren’t a pushover.

They have qualified here for their 6th World Cup, and they’re not a team likely to be overawed about playing England [having won three of their last five World Cup meetings with European sides] and remember also that this is the third time they have progressed past the World Cup group stages, which including winning 4 games in 2014 in reaching the quarters. They have some really good outstanding individual players (at least 3 are world class) who are capable of punishing any England mistakes [despite one of their stars possibly being side-lined (calf injury in last game) which could even determine the result of the game], so they will play England believing it’s a game they can win, won’t they?

Into the bargain, on the big stage, our defence (and somewhat-suspect keeper?), could be susceptible to being opened-up, if not torn-apart, by the dangerous Columbian strikers if they score first and get a grip on the game.

The person really (rightly?) sweating on all of this, with his competence now under question, is manager Gareth Southgate, simply because of his (stupid?) roulette-style punt of playing the ‘rotation’ game last Thursday. Well if you believe in so-called ‘momentum’, we all well and good killed it, didn’t we? [If he had wanted to provide some rest opportunity for key players (like Kane, Trippier, Lingard?), why didn’t he just play the real team for the whole of the first half and rest three of them in the second, eh?].

Southgate’s management judgement and credibility (consensus all but gone) now all hinges solely on this perilous Colombia game, because he is relying on their usually strong defensive resistance melting away under English pressure, and so to snatch a win from the potential jaws of defeat and so avoid such ignominy. [If we had beaten Belgium we would have had a much easier game against Japan [Rank 60] to at least reach the Quarter finals (which hasn’t happened for a dozen years)].

He has put his stash of chips on red or black, and if he wins this game he is a courageous hero who makes the right calls, but lose it and his future is in tatters as a guy whose mis-judgement blew-away England’s best opportunity in many decades to reach a World Cup Final in a very open tournament {form upsets at every turn – like Portugal [Rank 4 ] (with Ronaldo) & Argentina [Rank 5] (with Messi) both out tonight, so only Brazil [Rank 2] and Belgium [Rank 3] of the top 5 survive}, eh?

Oh yes, he was uncomfortable under questioning so is fully aware of the hornets’ nest jeopardy he has put himself (and the team?) into because it is now a ‘must win’ situation (or a plane ride home) – only a positive result (even if its via penalties) will silence us critics, because ‘successful’ teams (top 4) in World Cups are not expected to need group ‘rest’-games [none have done it to England’s extent in the last 20 years], are they?

 

[The ‘well-rested’ first XI will need to be at their very best against ‘unrested’ Columbia and supporters should just remember that England have won only two knockout games at World Cups since 1990 – the last one 3 tournaments ago!].

(Rankings pre June at time of squad selections)

THE GOLDEN BOOT 20118

Rank                              Player                            Goals

1                            Harry Kane                              5

                               England

2                         Cristiano Ronaldo                      4

                                 Portugal

3                          Romelu Lukaku                         4

                                 Belgium                           

4                           Denis Cheryshev

                                    Russia                                 3

4                              Diego Costa

                                      Spain                                 3

4                              Edinson Cavani                      3

                                      Uruguay

4                              Kylian Mbappe                       3

                                      France3

World Cup Finals’ progression

Round of Sixteen    

France vs Argentina, Uruguay vs Portugal, Spain vs Russia, Croatia vs Denmark, Brazil vs Mexico, Belgium vs Japan, Sweden vs Switzerland, Columbia vs England.           All winning 8 teams to progress

Quarter Finals          France v. Uruguay = A

Winner Spain vs Russia v. Winner Croatia vs Denmark = B

Winner Brazil vs Mexico v. Winner Belgium vs Japan = C

Winner Sweden vs Switzerland v. Winner Columbia vs England = D

The winning 4 teams to progress

Semi Finals               Winner A v. Winner C

Winner B v. Winner D

The winning 2 teams to progress

Final                              15th July

 

 

 

 

 

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