England battles Columbia, Swedes face Switzerland test in last 16

Published 03.07.2018 00:00
Updated 03.07.2018 01:10

Boosted by the return of Harry Kane, England faces a Colombia side that is full of confidence but will probably be without its star player James Rodriguez. Elsewhere, Sweden and Switzerland matchup in the final day of the last 16

England will try to win their first tournament knockout match in 12 years today when it faces Colombia in Moscow. After beating Ecuador in the World Cup in Germany in 2006, England has subsequently failed to beat Portugal, Germany, Italy and Iceland in sudden death matches. One positive omen is that the last time it faced Colombia at a World Cup it did beat them 2-0 in a group match in 1998 with goals from Darren Anderton and David Beckham. Manager Gareth Southgate rested eight players for final group game against Belgium but he is likely to recall those he left out with Harry Kane among them. Colombia is expected to be without star midfielder James Rodriguez who has been troubled by a calf problem and not trained with teammates.

"James is a reference for us but if he is not there someone else will step up and try to make the difference," Carlos Sanchez said.

"Everyone in the squad is ready to play. They would not be here if that were not the case."England has not won a knock-out game since 2006, and only five overall since lifting the trophy 52 years ago in 1966. And Tottenham's Dele Alli warned that Colombia can't be underestimated in the last 16 even if the South Americans are sweating on the fitness of their star Rodriguez.

"This here is a World Cup. We must approach every game as if we were playing against the best team in the world. Colombia are a very, very strong opponent," Alli said.

A possible victory would move England against Sweden or Switzerland in the quarterfinals, with Russia or Croatia possible opponent in a semifinal. The other side of the draw includes record winner Brazil, fancied France and Uruguay.

England beat Tunisia 2-1 before thrashing Panama 6-1 and then losing 1-0 to Belgium in a duel of already qualified teams in which Southgate and Belgium's Roberto Martinez rested most of their regular starters. Tournament top scorer Harry Kane is among those set to return for the match at Moscow's Spartak Stadium where he will aim to add to his five-goal tally.

Elsewhere, Sweden and Switzerland, who have never met before at a World Cup, both had to battle to get through the group stages and there were disciplinary casualties along the way. For Sweden, Sebastian Larsson is suspended for the round of 16, while Viktor Claesson, Mikael Lustig and Albin Ekdal will all miss the next game if they pick up a yellow card. And Swiss duo Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schar are both suspended so cannot face the Swedes. Despite impressively topping Group F ahead of Mexico, reigning champion Germany and South Korea, few outside Sweden expect the Scandinavians to survive much longer. There is a quiet confidence brewing in Sweden, with fans starting to believe Janne Andersson's team is performing at a level it has not achieved since 1994. Switzerland is not much fancied either but boast playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored an injury-time winner against Serbia which helped his country progress. It has not reached the quarterfinals since 1954 when it hosted the tournament, although, with defenders Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schar suspended, it may find it tough to handle Red Bull Leipzig winger Emil Forsberg.

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