Columbia vs. England
In Tuesday’s second match, Group H winner Columbia will face off against Group G runner-up England.
This matchup has the chance to be one of the best games of this round … if James Rodríguez plays. After losing its first match, Columbia enters this match on a two-game winning streak. However, a calf injury to its best player could spell trouble against a powerful England side. In addition to Rodríguez, the Columbians bring a strong attack with them to the knockouts. Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado provide great assistance, as do the side’s two center backs (Yerry Mina and Davinson Sánchez) when it comes to set pieces. And if there’s any aspect of England’s game that can be exploited, it’s set piece defense.
Columbia scored on a set piece in each group stage match and even without Rodríguez, it knows it’s capable of scoring such goals. Look for Columbia to come out flying either way, especially against a strong side in England.
England finished second in its group after losing to Belgium in its final match (granted, the match did not feature either side’s best players). Early Golden Boot candidate Harry Kane leads the side with five goals, and a 6-1 pummeling of Panama officially launched the side into the knockouts. After failing to make the round of 16 in 2014, the Three Lions pride itself on a tenacious attack. Much like Columbia, England’s set pieces are a sight to be seen.
Half of England’s eight goals came on set pieces, and the English are second only to Belgium in goals scored. For as much as Columbia relies on its attack, its defense is strong as well, so for England to win, it must bring the best version of its attack.
Matchup to Watch – Harry Kane vs. Davinson Sánchez
Sánchez will most likely draw the primary defensive matchup against Harry Kane. The Tottenham teammates know each other well, and Sánchez must limit Kane’s chances in the open field. Furthermore, Kane plays a crucial role when it comes to England set pieces, so it’s necessary for Columbia to be a strong defensive unit and deny Kane chances on corners and free kicks.
England has proven its offense revolves around Kane, and if Sánchez can force other players to beat Columbia, then it will be confident it can get a positive result.
Prediction – England 2, Columbia 1
England produces a comeback victory as Kane continues his pursuit of the Golden Boot. Columbia converts an early set piece to take the lead at the half, but England remembers what awaits them at home if they lose. A late Dele Alli goal sends the English to the quarterfinal and the Columbians back to its tropical paradise.