Written by Jon Clarke
Ahh the knockout rounds. This is where things get very interesting. For England fans, it’s an anxious time, as we very rarely progress beyond. The occasional quarter-final or semi have been our greatest achievements since that historic afternoon in 1966, when we defeated West Germany (4-2 in extra time, as if you need reminding) to win the Jules Rimet trophy.
But Germany are out. Italy didn’t qualify. Spain are in a management crisis. Argentina don’t look as threatening as their attacking options suggest. And England? Well they’ve looked good… very good in fact. The most attacking, youthful team we’ve seen in some years.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though (like we always do). First we must defeat Colombia, who are far from pushovers...
How have England fared against Colombia in the past?
Well if history tells a story, then it’s a good one. According to 11v11, England have faced Colombia five times previously, winning three and drawing on two occasions - meaning we are unbeaten against them. Our last meeting came in a 2005 friendly, which we won 3-2. Before that was the 1998 World Cup group stage, where the Three Lions also ran away 2-0 winners.
So the omens are good. But the cautious England fan in me would remind you that this Colombian team is very different to the ones previously. History books mean nothing in that respect. With plenty of talented, top flight players, they present a threat that we should not overlook...
Colombia’s most dangerous players
Radamel Flacao. Juan Cuadrado. David Ospina. James Rodriguez. Granted James is battling an injury, which could keep him out of the England game (sigh of relief). But in Falcao they have a predatory striker, Cuadrado a speedy winger, and Ospina a solid keeper. Their threat level could well be determined by the mood these players turn up in.
Radamel Falcao is Colombia's record goalscorer, and presents a formidable threat to England's often shaky defence.
On his day, Falcao has proven himself to be an elite finisher, but he is also able to disappear in big games. Cuadrado is tricky to deal with, but can offer a frustrating sight at Juventus, as his final ball is often lacking.
Will Kane be our saviour once again?
So far, Kane has stolen all the headlines for England, as he’s the one who's made the difference with his goals. But let’s not put all the expectation and pressure on one player. That’s happened before with Beckham and Rooney - not ending well.
For Kane to be on song, he needs supply. So the heroes against Colombia will come from all over the field. Trippier has played well in the group games, as has Alli. And whether you like Henderson or not (he tends to divide opinions), he does offer a nice linchpin in the middle, allowing our wingers to push forward more.
Having been rested against Belgium, Captain Kane will be fresh and eager to make his mark against Colombia.
The fact that Kane is chasing down the Gold Boot award should go some way towards motivating him to add to his haul, something that won’t be lost on the rest of the team.
England XI: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Trippier, Alli, Henderson, Lingard, Young, Sterling, Kane
Colombia XI: Ospina, Arias, Davinson Sanchez, Mina, Mojica, Uribe, Carlos Sanchez, Cuadrado, Quintero, Muriel, Falcao
Odds and predictions
According to Betfair, here are the odds for England vs. Colombia:
England to qualify: 4/7
Under 2.5 goals: 8/5
England to win 2-1: 9/1
As for our predictions? It will be a hard fought contest, but GSHQ think England will edge it with a 2-1 win!
Time and channel
England v. Colombia will be played at STADIUM, and takes place on Tuesday at 7pm (GMT) on ITV and BBC One. So get the armchair plumped, beers chilled and snacks ready.