Monday 23 July 2018

5 things to look out for at the World Cup on Tuesday

England are attempting to beat Colombia in their last-16 tie.

England are banking on the goals of Harry Kane to make World Cup progress at Colombia’s expense (Adam Davy/PA)
England are banking on the goals of Harry Kane to make World Cup progress at Colombia’s expense (Adam Davy/PA)

By Phil Blanche, Press Association Sport

England are back in World Cup action against Colombia on Tuesday night.

Here, Press Association Sport flags up what to look out for on the final day of last-16 ties.

Kane more than able

As well as finding themselves on the ‘right side of the draw’, England’s trust that this is set to be a World Cup to remember is based on the belief that they might just possess the most natural goalscorer left in the tournament. Harry Kane tops the Golden Boot charts with five goals – and the Tottenham striker did not even feature in the last game against Belgium. Kane now has 18 goals in 26 England games and his showdown with Colombia’s Radamel Falcao could be decisive. If Kane comes out on top, the Three Lions should be roaring into the quarter-finals for the first time since 2006.

Spectre of spot-kicks

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England fans know the pain of penalty shoot-outs (Nick Potts/PA)

England and penalty shootouts do not mix well. So often spot-kick contests have been England’s nemesis at World Cups and European tournaments – 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004 and 2006 competitions are riddled with such painful memories. Colombia have never been involved in a World Cup penalty shootout – the only country in the last 16 not to have ever been involved after Russia, Denmark and Croatia experienced the process for the first time on Sunday. So does anyone have the edge if it goes to spot-kicks? The answer is probably no.

Can he become King James again?

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Colombia’s James Rodriguez is a proven match-winner (Mike Egerton/PA)

The whole of Colombia – not to mention huge swathes of England – has held its breath over the fitness of Los Cafeteros playmaker James Rodriguez. The 26-year-old Real Madrid man came off in the first half of Colombia’s 1-0 win over Senegal last Thursday due to a leg problem. As he showed when claiming the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup, Rodriguez can decide a game in a split second – and England’s chances of progressing will be far greater if he fails that pre-match fitness test.

Do Switzerland have the X-factor?

Switzerland created no shortage of headlines in storming back to beat Serbia 2-1 – the decisive game in their group. Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, no strangers to Premier League audiences, both recognised their heritage when they performed Albanian Eagle celebrations after scoring. It did not go do well in Serbia, but the pair received fines rather than bans for their political statements and are free to play against Sweden in the last 16. Switzerland have lost only once in 25 games and are ranked sixth in the world, but are they are as good as FIFA’s coefficients would have us believe?

Stepping out of Zlatan’s shadow

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Sweden have got used to life without Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Mike Egerton/PA)

Just a few short months ago one World Cup question was on everyone’s lips in Sweden – will Zlatan Ibrahimovic go to Russia? The self-styled ‘Lion’ retired from international football after Sweden’s dismal exit from Euro 2016 but, of course, that was not the end of Zlatan’s story. He carried on playing – and scoring – for Manchester United and the Los Angeles Galaxy and his presence never seemed too far from the Sweden camp before the World Cup. But Sweden are a united force without the towering striker and, having impressed in the group stages, they will battle Switzerland for a quarter-final spot.

Press Association

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