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England against Colombia and history for place in quarter-finals   

By Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- England will try and overcome the weight of history when they face Colombia in the last 16 of the World Cup in Moscow on Tuesday.

The Colombians will attempt to repeat their feats of four years ago by securing a place in the quarter-finals of the tournament for the second time in a row.

England changed nine of their outfield players as they lost to Belgium in their last group game.  Coach Gareth Southgate will soon find out if that was the right policy as he looks to lead England to their first win in the knockout stage of a major tournament since they defeated Ecuador at the same stage in 2006.

Southgate has his entire squad available except for Fabian Delph, who flew back to the UK on Friday for the birth of his third child. Dele Ali is expected to replace Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the midfield after a calf strain saw him sidelined against Panama and Belgium.

John Stones should have no problems playing in defense after he was seen with an ice-bag on his calf after being substituted at half time against Belgium, but Southgate said that had always been his intention. Harry Kane will be England’s main danger man as the leader of the race for the 2018 Golden Boot looks to add to the five goals he scored in the first two matches.

England have shown themselves to be a huge threat from set pieces with six of the eight goals they have scored in Russia coming from dead-ball situations. Colombia will look to their big central defender Yerry Mina to counteract that threat. The Barcelona stopper has scored two goals himself from set-pieces taken by Juan Quintero, who along with Juan Cuadrado, could find himself tasked with providing Colombia’s creative play if James Rodriguez is unfit.

James has been struggling with a muscle problem throughout the competition and had to be replaced after just 30 minutes in Colombia’s last game against Senegal. His loss would be a major blow for the South Americans. Hopes are high among the English and even more so with a possible quarter-final against Sweden or Switzerland, but to reach the quarters they need first to get past Colombia and 12 years of disappointment.



England coach urges team to “write their own story”

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- England coach Gareth Southgate has urged his team to write their own story by beating Colombia and advancing to the quarterfinals.

The Three Lions, which haven’t won a game in the knockout stages of a World Cup since 2006, advanced to the round of 16 at this year’s tournament as runners up of their group.

“It’s 10 years since we won a knockout fixture. For this team, it’s a brilliant opportunity to go beyond where more experienced teams have gone before. They’re relishing that chance,” Southgate told a pre-match press conference here.

“We’re viewing the game (against Colombia) as one with an opponent we really respect...These are the games you want to be involved in, and the lads have the chance to write their own stories now,” said the coach.

With Argentina, Spain and Portugal out, England have been tipped as one of the favorites, but Southgate said his team would just focus on the upcoming match and nothing beyond that.

“We’ve been in this position before. Many times over the last however many years. It’s pointless us even thinking about what might happen after tomorrow’s game. We focus on the game, on our performance, and everything will fall into place from there,” he said.

Southgate also confirmed that midfielder Fabian Delph, who has flown home to be with his wife who is going to give birth to his child, will not play Colombia.

“The thought process is some things in life are more important than football. His (Delph’s) wife is due to go into labour. This is a big tournament, but family is more important. At times like this, players who are family orientated should be supported by us,” he said.

“There’s only one day in your life when your children is born. I know my father’s generation would view that differently, but you have to be there for your family,” he added.


James Rodriguez has no serious injury, says Colombia coach Pekerman

Moscow Russia (Xinhua) -- Colombia coach Jose Nestor Pekerman told reporters on Monday that James Rodriguez had no serious injury but whether the midfielder can play the World Cup game against England has not been decided.

Colombia superstar Rodriguez was forced off by muscular injury in World Cup Group H match against Senegal last Thursday. The Bayern Munich star made no attempts at the goal and only 10 passes for 30 minutes.

Pekerman said after the medical test he got the good news of the key player. “We knew that he has no serious injury, but we still have a day and a half to see how he feels. We hope that he can play for the following games,” the coach added.

When asked about whether Rodriguez can start in Tuesday’s match against England, the Argentine refused to release more details. “I will tell you the starting 11 just one hour before the game,” said Pekerman.

However, the 68-year-old coach implied that if Rodriguez is not able to start, Luis Muriel will be his choice. Pekerman said Muriel’s performance against Senegal “helped us a lot and the characteristics of him were very important”.

Regarding their opponents, Pekerman said England’s Harry Kane was one of the top scorers in the world and the coach emphasized that his men need to be careful about the Tottenham Hotspur forward.

Pekerman also said England, who made the wholesale changes of their starting 11 in the final group stage match against Belgium, are able to rest their main players which is “something beneficial”.

“World Cup is a tournament of few days of recovery between match and match, more rest always gives an advantage,” Pekerman said, “But for us it is also an important opportunity, since we have been playing very hard in decisive games which gave us a lot of credibilities that we are strong.”

Tuesday’s match in Moscow between Colombia and England will be the last round of 16 clash.


Southgate: We have connected with our fans again

MOSCOW  Russia (Xinhua) -- England coach Gareth Southgate believes his plyers have given supporters reason to dream again as they prepare to face Colombia on Tuesday for a place in the World Cup quarterfinals with hopes of progressing even further in the tournament.

Southgate took over the England job after Sam Allardyce’s short tenure in charge in the wake of Roy Hodgson’s departure following the depressing exit from the 2016 European Championships, which marked a low point for England. Although they were unbeaten in their qualifying campaign, Wembley Stadium was never full for a game and on several occasion the players were booed by their fans.

“Ten months ago we qualified and people were throwing paper aeroplanes onto the pitch at Wembley,” said Southgate.

“We were driving back to our hotel in Malta with some obscene chants being thrown at us from supporters,” said the England coach, who notices a change after impressive displays in warm-up games and wins against Tunisia and Panama to start the World Cup.

“I feel like we’ve started to connect the team with the public again. I feel like we’ve created excitement, like we’ve played in a style that has really shown an expression of what young English players are capable of,” he said on Sky News.

Speaking to the press on Sunday, England midfielder Jesse Lingard looked ahead to the Colombia game saying the South Americans were a “tough and physical side, but we are aware of our qualities and our threats.”

He also praised Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, who had an unsuccessful spell at England with Manchester United and Chelsea, but who has returned to form in France.

“He is a great finisher in and around the box, but we have to be aware of it and deal with it,” said Lingard.

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