World Cup Preview: Colombia v England

Who? Colombia - England
Where? Otkritie Arena, Moscow
When? July 3, 20:00 (CET local time)

Colombia (Idan Seggev)

June 26th 1998. Colombia and England meet at the Stade Felix-Bollaert in Lens for the last match in the group stage. Colombia needed a win in order to qualify but they lost 0-2. A goal by Darren Anderton and a magnificent free kick by the young star, David Beckham, finished the Colombian dream and the era of Carlos Valderrama, who played his last match with the yellow jersey.

July 3rd, 2018. 20 years later and both national teams will meet again, this time in the round of 16 of 2018 World Cup. Unlike the past, this time there is a feeling that Colombia can do it. The potential of this squad is big and with all the respect, the English team haven't show something extraordinary that makes Colombia's mission impossible. Add the fact that since his appointment as Colombia's coach, Pekerman never lost a game against European teams: six wins and two draws against teams such as Spain, Belgium, Holland and France.

The main question is whether James will be fit or not. Against Senegal he had to be replaced after only 31 minutes. After an examination by the team's doctor, the Colombian federation announced that he would be fit for the match. Meanwhile, Pekerman tried at the practice a lineup without James but with three defensive midfielders: Carlos Sanchez, Uribe and Barrios. Although most chances that James will play, even without him it's hard to believe that Pekerman will use such a defensive approach and either send Uribe to the left wing or will put Muriel there instead of one of the three. The rest should be the same as the team who played against Senegal.

Once again the Colombian fans will dominate the stands in the stadium, with Carlos Valderrama wearing the same jersey from that match in 1998, and with the elimination of teams like Germany, Argentina and Spain, the fans believe that it's their time to make history.

 James Rodriguez, may be fit for the crucial match (Michael Steele/Getty Images)

James Rodriguez, may be fit for the crucial match (Michael Steele/Getty Images)

England (Yossi Medina)

The talks about football's coming home are rising and rising as long as the World Cup continues. The elimination of Spain made England to be the only former world champions in their side of the bracket and one out of two former finalists in this side, alongside with Sweden.

Since the end of the group stage, many people believe that England is currently in a good position to run all the way to the title. They are ranked on the top 5 and sometimes even in the top 3 according to the betting companies in their odds to win the title. The sounds of 1966 are here, but England knows that being favorite is not always enough, just like two years ago in the Euro against Iceland.

England have good memories from playing against Colombia, as they defeated them in their only World Cup meeting in 1998 group stage. Yet, the English team doesn't like to play against South American teams in World Cup knock out. They won only three times in the past, against Argentina in 1966 and against Paraguay in 1986. Since then, they lost twice to Argentina in 1986 and 1998 and defeated also by Brazil in 2002, but defeated Ecuador in 2006.

With the support in Russia and in the home, England feels that they can do it now. If they could leave the pressure away, England can make another great performance in this tournament that will maybe worth a place at the next stage. If not, it will be another disappointment for coming home too early.

 England fans, sure in their chances to win (Alex Morton/Getty Images)

England fans, sure in their chances to win (Alex Morton/Getty Images)

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