POST TIME: 3 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Colombia look to first win against England
Colombia v England

Colombia look to first 
win against England

England’s forward Harry Kane (C) takes part in a training session in Repino yesterday ahead of their World Cup last 16 match against Colombia. AFP photo

The meeting between Colombia and England at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow represents the last of the Round of 16 fixtures at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, reports FIFA.com. Only one of the two can take the remaining quarter-final berth and keep their dreams alive of lifting the title aloft.

Colombia have never managed to beat the Three Lions, with the most recent encounter ending in a 2-0 win for England at France 1998. Jose Pekerman’s side sealed passage to the knockout stages in Russia with a victory over Senegal in their final group match to finish top of their section, but are yet to fully tap into the attacking potential of a side spearheaded by Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez. The latter, who was top scorer at Brazil 2014, has been plagued by injury and is rated doubtful for this game.

England won their first two group assignments and will primarily rely on the individual quality of players such as Dele and Harry Kane. Their last outing against Belgium did little to shed any light on the true strength of the side as Gareth Southgate opted to rest a number of first team regulars. This game against Los Cafeteros will therefore be the first true measure of his young England side.

Colombia are hoping to repeat their achievement from the 2014 finals by reaching the last eight for a second time, and aim to do so by dominating possession and controlling the tempo of the game. Whether or not they succeed will depend on their ability to find gaps in England’s defence, especially on the wings, as well as stifling the Three Lions’ rapid counter-attacks.

Southgate has challenged his players to write their own history, especially given England’s regrettable record in knockout matches. It may be an inexperienced team but the combination of talent, self-confidence and vitality served them well in the group stage. If this promising ensemble manage to win, it would help the whole country truly believe World Cup glory is possible.

Kane currently leads the race for Russia 2018’s adidas Golden Boot, having scored five goals in just two appearances.It’s also clear that, while he would love to follow in the top-scoring footsteps of legends like Eusebio, Ronaldo and England’s very own Gary Lineker, he will be pursuing that dream by focusing on the collective.

“Obviously it would be fantastic to win it,” Kane said when asked about the top scorer prize. “The main priority is getting through. But I feel like if I play well and the team plays well, hopefully I’ll score and things there will take care of themselves.”

Kane will be hoping to boost his chances against Colombia today, with an open, attacking affair widely expected. “Hopefully it will be us creating most of the chances, even though they have some great attacking players like Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez,” he said. “We know we are going to have to be on it. But we have played some great attacking football so far.”

England have only won two World Cup knockout games since 1990: against Denmark in 2002 and Ecuador in 2006. But Kane, who was not born when Sir Bobby Robson’s side progressed to the semi-finals in Italy 28 years ago, believes this young Three Lions team have a great opportunity to make history.