English test for Colombia

The Asian Age.  | T N Raghu

Sports, Football

A victory will give Harry Kane & Co. momentum to go all the way in Russia.

Harry Kane (Photo: AFP)

Moscow: The English media either put their football team down mercilessly or talk them up unrealistically. As always, the true position of the team is somewhere in the middle. They are foreseeing a place for the Three Lions in the final of the World Cup here while Harry Kane and Co. are yet to beat James Rodriguez’s Colombia in the round of 16.

With the shock exit of Germany and Spain, England’s passage to the final indeed looks rosy because their likely opponents are Sweden or Switzerland, Croatia or Russia should they get the better of Los Cafeteros and keep winning. That England are the only former champions left in their half has many of their fans dreaming about a final against Brazil or France on July 15.

First, England should win on Tuesday. The availability of Rodriguez, who is hobbled by a calf injury in his right leg, will have an impact on the match at the Spartek Stadium here. The importance of the majestic midfielder to Colombia can’t be stressed enough because he has six goals and four assists in seven starts at two World Cups. He is not merely the team’s talisman; he is the team’s heartbeat.

Rodriguez showed how valuable he was to Colombia with two sublime assists in a 3-0 win over Poland here. He is certainly in the class of Eden Hazard, Luka Modric and Kevin De Bruyne, if not better. In his absence, Colombia will be going to war without an arm. If Rodriguez doesn’t start, the onus of unlocking the English defence would be on Juan Quintero, also a wonderful playmaker.

Forward Radamel Falcao is not the tiger in front of goal that he had been four years ago but goals have not yet dried up in his boots. The Monaco star showed his class with a stunning strike with the outside of his foot in the Poland romp. He can still hurt in the blink of an eye. Juventus winger Juan Cuadrado is another potential match winner for Colombia. He has pace, trickery and experience. Cuadrado isn’t a bad finisher either.

This English team are likeable. With the ghosts of Gerrard, Lampard and Rooney finally laid to rest, Gareth Southgate’s boys are off to a refreshing new start. A win over Colombia will give England momentum that could take them all the way to the Luzhniki Stadium on July 15.

While Rooney reserved his worst for the World Cup, captain Kane has been a revelation on his debut in the showpiece. Five goals from three matches is no mean feat, although two of them were penalties and another was an unwitting deflection. The pressure on Kane would ease a bit if Raheem Sterling also joined the party. The Manchester City star has been below par in Russia and the knock-out stage may well be the spark he needs to come alive.