The Big Match Tactical View: Colombia v England

Gareth Southgate and Steve Holland
Can Gareth Southgate and Steve Holland make their 3-3-2-2 system work?
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England haven't won a knockout match since 2006 - can they defeat Colombia here? Michael Cox previews tonight's encounter...

"England’s defence hasn’t really been tested against strong opposition, and yet hasn’t yet kept a clean sheet."

Colombia v England
Tuesday 19:00, ITV1

Match Odds: Colombia 4.1, England 2.26/5, The Draw 3.211/5.

England go into their second round clash with Colombia as favourites, but Jose Pekerman's side collected six points from a difficult Group H, their only failure coming against Japan when down to 10 men for almost the entire game. This will be a difficult contest for England.

Colombia system?

It should also be a fascinating tactical battle. England are using arguably the most unique tactical system at this tournament, and it will be interesting to see how Pekerman responds. He's used a 4-2-3-1 formation so far during this tournament, but might be forced to use a different shape.

The first question, though, is whether James Rodriguez is fit to start. He's only played around half of Colombia's minutes in this tournament so far and limped out of their final group game, a 1-0 win over Senegal. He was sensational in the 3-0 win over Poland and it would be a huge boost for Colombia if declared fit, because he will drift inside from the left and combine with Juan Quintero between the lines, overloading Jordan Henderson.

If he's out, Pekerman has two options. The first is using Luis Muriel, a quick wide attacker, and maintaining the 4-2-3-1. The other is introducing WIlmar Barrios, a holding midfielder, and moving to 4-3-3, a system Colombia occasionally used in qualification and trained with at the weekend. This would be a defensive move designed to guard against England's midfield runners.

Cuadrado threat

Elsewhere, Radamel Falcao will lead the line and has been excellent in terms of his all-round game at this tournament, while Juan Cuadrado will play wide-right and offer the greatest counter-attacking threat. He might be a dangerous weapon if he can find space in behind Ashley Young, especially against Harry Maguire, the least mobile of England's centre-backs.

Against Senegal, Cuadrado made peculiar movements into a right-back position, with Colombia's conventional right-back Santiago Arias pushing into central midfield. This didn't work and England might be able to steal the ball with Colombia out of position.

Lingard runs in behind could prove crucial

England's greatest strength is the running of Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard, who push beyond Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling to find themselves in goalscoring positions. Colombia will have to watch them carefully, with Lingard continually getting in behind to reach balls from Kieran Trippier, perhaps the tournament's best right-sided defender thus far.

England should worry, though, that Alli and Lingard's runs will expose Henderson, who could be left isolated against Colombian runners. England's defence hasn't really been tested against strong opposition, and yet hasn't yet kept a clean sheet. The defence has looked nervous when playing out, and Jordan Pickford hasn't convinced between the posts.

I'm not confident of England keeping a clean sheet here, but equally I'd be surprised if Colombia keep one at the other end. Davinson Sanchez and Yerry Mina are good defenders, but rely too much upon speed and England's midfield runners might overwhelm them. I'm backing both sides to score at 2.35/4 - this should be a good open game.

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