After decades of arrogance among fans at the start of football tournaments, England have exceeded their fans’ lowered expectations in Russia, by overcoming Tunisia 2-1 and thumping Panama 6-1.
With captain Harry Kane scoring five goals in two games and the blossoming of such talents as attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard and centre-back John Stones, it seems that the Three Lions (England) have finally found their form at the World Cup.
While Kane is a favourite to take the 2018 Golden Boot, its 2014 winner James Rodriguez is unlikely to be fit to play for Colombia on Tuesday after an injury sustained in the game against Senegal on June 28. Manager José Peckerman’s response said it all: “I am extremely concerned […] it risks overshadowing everything.”
The Senegal match also showed Colombia to be vulnerable to the kind of dogged attacking style with which England dispatched Tunisia and Panama. Colombia might have crushed a Poland side that sat deep, but Senegal’s relentless offensives in the first half of their match exposed a weakness in the Colombian team.
Not a single Colombia player managed to touch the ball in the Senegalese box during that first 45 minutes before the African side switched to a more laid-back approach.
Persistant England doubts
However, questions persist about how far England can go. Although they had already got through to the last 16 by this point, Manager Gareth Southgate’s tactic of resting players saw the Three Lions’ lose 1-0 to Belgium sparking fears that they may have lost their momentum.
Certainly, they will have to watch out for Juan Cuadrano, the Juventus winger whose buccaneering runs down the left flank wreaked havoc amongst the Polish defence during Colombia’s 3-0 victory.
The South Americans are also dangerous with set pieces. Three of the South Americans’ five goals so far have been from a dead ball, with free-kick specialist Juan Quintero their biggest menace.
Although his current position in club football – on loan to Argentinean side River Plate from Portugal’s Porto – suggests mediocrity, Quintero is a far more threatening player than anyone Tunisia or Panama had to offer.
England’s resounding win over Panama – the biggest margin of victory in the tournament so far – might have boosted the team, but former Manchester United defender, now football analyst, Rio Ferdinand poured much needed cold water on England’s newfound confidence.
“This Panama side wouldn’t sit well in our non-league in England, they’re that bad,” Ferdinand said.
Indeed, the Three Lions should remember that Colombia will be their first solid opponents at this World Cup.