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Colombia v England: What can Gareth Southgate's side expect from their last-16 opponents?

Key men, weaknesses, head-to-head record and more

Juan Quintero celebrates with Radamel Falcao after scoring for Colombia

England face Colombia in the last 16 of the World Cup in Moscow on Tuesday evening, but what can Gareth Southgate and his players expect from them?

Colombia, who are 16th in the FIFA rankings, four places behind England, booked their place in the knockout stages as Group H winners having recovered from a 2-1 loss to Japan in their opening game to beat Poland and Senegal 3-0 and 1-0 respectively.

But how good are they? What's the latest on James Rodriguez's injury? And who are the other players to watch? We take a look with help from South American football expert Tim Vickery.

Colombia factfile

  • FIFA ranking: 16th
  • Best WC finish: QFs (2014)
  • Qualification: 4th in CONMEBOL
  • Record vs England: P5 W0 D2 L3
  • Key player: James Rodriguez
  • Manager: Jose Pekerman

Who's the manager?

Argentine veteran Jose Pekerman has been in charge since 2012. Known as a canny tactician, he oversaw Colombia's best ever World Cup campaign in 2014, when they took maximum points in the group stage and beat Uruguay in the last 16 before a narrow loss to Brazil in the quarter-finals.

Jose Pekerman, Head coach of Colombia speaks to James Rodriguez of Colombia who looks dejected as he is substituted off due to injury during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group H match between Senegal and Colombia at Samara Arena on June 28, 2018 in Samara, Russia.
Image: Jose Pekerman consoles James Rodriguez as he is substituted

The 68-year-old has had a long career in management which included a spell in charge of Argentina between 2004 and 2006. At the 2006 World Cup, his Argentina side earned plaudits for a group campaign which included a 6-0 thrashing of Serbia and Montenegro, but they went on to lose to Germany on penalties in the quarter-finals.

How much of a threat are they?

A lot depends on James Rodriguez, according to Vickery.

"They pose a considerable challenge but less of a challenge if they can't get James Rodriguez fit," Vickery told Sky Sports. "However, just as England fans are plotting a route to the final, so are Colombia. And if they get there they will face one European team after.

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 during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group H match between Poland and Colombia at Kazan Arena on June 24, 2018 in Kazan, Russia.
Image: Colombia impressed in their 3-0 win over Poland

"Colombia are the only non-European team in that half of the draw and it may be significant that their one excellent performance so far came against European opposition when they beat Poland 3-0."

England have been warned.

What's the latest on James?

James Rodriguez, the Golden Boot winner in Brazil four years ago, is a doubt for Tuesday's game having limped off in the first half of their 1-0 win over Senegal on Thursday.

So could he be ruled out? "It's a little bit too early to tell," said Vickery. "The coach Jose Pekerman said after the game in his press conference that he was very worried because Rodriguez had looked all right. He's had this niggling problem for a while. They didn't play him from the start in the first game and he came back magnificently in the second game.

James Rodriguez injury concern
James Rodriguez injury concern

Colombia manager Jose Pekerman is "extremely concerned" about James Rodriguez's fitness.

"He'd looked alright in training but he wasn't right at all. He was a passenger against Senegal so Colombia are worried. They don't have a lot of time to get him back but perhaps it's a promising sign that we did see him running onto the field in celebration at the end of the game.

"Whether that was just the euphoria of Colombia having made the knockout stage or that he can shake off this niggling little injury that he's had we will see because without him Colombia are not the same side."

What are their main strengths?

With two goals in two games, towering centre-back Yerry Mina is sure to be a threat from set pieces, but according to Vickery, England should be more worried about their front four.

"Against Poland, they had their front four all firing together," he said. "Radamel Falcao is the predatory centre-forward and they had Juan Cuadrado flying down the right wing. There's also James, who strides the field like a prince, and the other guy who has come good in this competition in Juan Quintero.

Juan Cuadrado battles for possession with Kalidou Koulibaly
Image: Juan Cuadrado has impressed on the right for Colombia

"The little left-footed playmaker was called up to the last World Cup but hadn't played a competitive game for Colombia until this tournament. He lost focus, ate too much, put on weight and got obsessed with music but he's got his focus back.

"He's been behind most of the good things that Colombia have done in the tournament. He's like watching football from various decades ago. He's the old fashioned put-your-foot-on-the-ball playmaker. He's not an athlete and the reason he is a personal hero of mine is probably because if I was a top-class player, I'd eat too much and get obsessed with music as well.

"Keep that front four quiet and England have half a foot in the quarter-finals."

What about the defence?

"The centre-back pairing of Davinson Sanchez and Yerry Mina are huge and pretty quick as well," says Vickery. "Arsenal's David Ospina has found his form in this tournament as well, which is good news for Colombia because he's their only top-class goalkeeper.

Yerry Mina celebrates after scoring the goal that sent Colombia through to the knockout stage of the World Cup
Image: Yeray Mina scored against Poland and Senegal

"He'd had a really bad year with the national side and he was inventing new and more bizarre ways to throw the ball into his own net, so they are very glad he's found some form again.

"I don't think there are necessarily any defensive frailties, but they do have a few players there who can hurt with you with the ball and a number of players who can't."

What are their weaknesses?

Vickery believes England's best hope of getting a result is by forcing Colombia onto the defensive.

"It's been very noticeable so far that Colombia have been poor when they've been forced back into their own half," he said. "The second half against Japan - I know they were down to 10 men - but also the first half against Senegal when they were forced back, if you can do that, then Falcao doesn't offer a great deal.

Davinson Sanchez slides in to tackle Sadio Mane. The incident was referred to VAR with no penalty awarded
Image: England must take the game to Colombia, says Tim Vickery

"He's a front to goal striker who wants to be as close to his team-mates as possible, looking for chinks in the England back three, but if you keep Colombia back he doesn't really have the pace these days to work the channels.

"Also, his back to goal link play isn't great, so if you can keep Cuadrado in his own half, if you can keep Quintero and Colombia back, that could be key to England winning this game."

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