Saturday 21 July 2018

Reasons to be fearful and cheerful about England’s World Cup chances

Gareth Southgate’s men are through to the last 16 in Russia.

England are through to the last 16 of the World Cup (Adam Davy/PA)
England are through to the last 16 of the World Cup (Adam Davy/PA)

By Press Association Sport staff

England’s 1-0 loss to Belgium on Thursday left the Three Lions as runners-up in World Cup Group G and facing a last-16 clash with Colombia.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at reasons for England fans to be fearful and cheerful in terms of what might happen from here.

Fearful – Momentum lost?

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Adnan Januzaj (right) scored the winner for Belgium against England (Aaron Chown/PA)

England went into Thursday’s match with the feeling of positivity around them having built up considerably following the 2-1 win against Tunisia and 6-1 thrashing of Panama in their first two group games. There was a strong sense of momentum about them – something that is less the case now, heading into the last 16 on the back of a defeat.

Cheerful – players rested

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Gareth Southgate (Owen Humphreys/PA)

England may have recorded a different result on Thursday if boss Gareth Southgate, with qualification for the next stage already secured, had not opted to make eight changes to his starting line-up. But what his selection decisions did mean was that the majority of the players who are expected to feature in the next round got some additional rest, and Southgate will hope the side looks suitably refreshed come Tuesday. It is also worth noting that England would have had to play a day earlier if they had come top of the group.

Fearful – Colombia better than Japan?

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Radamel Falcao scored in Colombia’s 3-0 win over Poland (Adam Holt/EMPICS)

If England were playing on Monday, it would be against Japan, who would appear easier opponents than Colombia. Certainly there are more high-profile names in the Colombian squad. While striker Radamel Falcao may have underwhelmed in the Premier League, he has demonstrated his potency elsewhere, and the same can be said of winger Juan Cuadrado. Midfielder James Rodriguez, who won the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup, is another notable name in their ranks – although he has struggled with injury so far at this tournament, and was forced off in the first half of their final group game on Thursday.

Cheerful – no chance of Brazil in the quarter-finals

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England will not be facing Neymar and Brazil in the quarter-finals (Tim Goode/EMPICS)

With the way the knockout rounds are laid out, England know that had they been in the alternative scenario – winning Group G and facing Japan – there was the prospect of a quarter-final meeting with favourites Brazil. Instead, there will be a less daunting-looking reward if they do manage to successfully negotiate the Colombia match – the winner of Sweden v Switzerland.

Fearful – England’s KO woes

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England suffered a shock defeat to Iceland in the Euro 2016 last 16 (Jonathan Brady/PA).

England’s recent record in knockout matches at major tournaments will have some fans worried, regardless of who they are playing. The last one the team won was at the 2006 World Cup, when they defeated Ecuador 1-0 in the round of 16. They subsequently exited those finals in the last eight having been beaten on penalties by Portugal, and the three knockout games England have played since have seen them thrashed 4-1 by Germany in the 2010 World Cup last 16, lose on penalties against Italy in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals, and then suffer the humiliating 2-1 last-16 loss to Iceland at Euro 2016.

Cheerful – The new generation, wanting to make amends, and Kane on fire

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Harry Kane has scored five goals at this World Cup so far (Adam Davy/PA)

Since the major low of the Iceland game there has been plenty of change for England and they have come to this tournament with a very different squad. Many players in the 23 – overseen by a different manager in Southgate – were not at Euro 2016, and the feeling of wanting to try to make amends for what happened two years ago may be something that adds particular drive to those who were. Among the latter group is Harry Kane, a man very much in form. The captain, leading the Golden Boot race with five goals after his hat-trick against Panama, has scored 13 times in his last nine internationals and, certainly, a reason for England fans to be cheerful is him.

Press Association

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