England have the chance to end a 12-year wait for a knockout phase victory and reach the World Cup quarter-finals at Colombia’s expense this Tuesday.
Ahead of the eagerly-anticipated last-16 encounter, Press Association Sport’s Simon Peach analyses some of the key areas for the crunch clash in Moscow.
Pickford v Ospina
Gareth Southgate has made plenty of bold calls during his reign, from edging out all-time top scorer Wayne Rooney to omitting long-serving goalkeeper Joe Hart from his World Cup squad.
The England manager favoured promise over experience throughout this team and his choice of goalkeeper is no different, having plumped for Jordan Pickford as his number one.
Superior footwork edged him ahead of Jack Butland, but the Everton goalkeeper has yet to definitively answer questions that only increased with shaky moments against Belgium.
Tuesday will also be a big test for Colombia’s undisputed number one David Ospina. The 29-year-old has been guilty of making the odd mistake over the years but produced some key saves in this week’s crunch Group H win against Senegal.
England have flourished from set-pieces in Russia. Both of Harry Kane’s goals against Tunisia came from corners, leading Panama to panic from dead-ball situations in Nizhny Novgorod.
So concerned were the World Cup debutants that John Stones was allowed to run free and head home an opener as team-mates wrestled bigger threats.
A smart set-piece routine – the brainchild of strikers coach Allan Russell – allowed Stones to grab his second against Panama, before grappling at another corner led to a spot-kick smashed home by Harry Kane.
Belgium dealt much better with set-pieces, although the changes in personnel blunted England’s threat.
Colombia will also pose a threat themselves from dead-ball situations on Tuesday. Southgate may well be unnerved by giant defender Yerry Mina, who nodded his side ahead in the crucial win against Poland before heading the winner from another corner against Senegal.
Case for the defence
In Mina and Tottenham’s Davinson Sanchez, the South Americans arguably boast the best young centre-back pairing in the world.
The giant defenders boast no little talent and have been solid at the heart of a four-man back line, flanked by Santiago Arias and Johan Mojica. Colombia have yet to concede with 11 players on the pitch, having suffered a 2-1 opening-day loss to Japan after Carlos Sanchez’s early red card.
England will again deploy a three-man back line complemented by marauding full-backs – a formation Southgate has been honing since last October. Kyle Walker was brought into it after a successful experiment there against Holland in March, while Manchester City team-mate John Stones is at the heart of it. Harry Maguire looks to have secured himself as the third member of the backline thanks to his confidence on the ball and ability in the air.
But the Leicester defender has looked uncomfortable at times and Walker’s positioning was criticised after giving away a soft penalty against Tunisia. The defence was guilty of allowing Panama to score a consolation from a set-piece and need to be more alert.
Colombia head coach Jose Pekerman uses the same 4-2-3-1 system that saw them flourish in Brazil, where they reached the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.
Their holding midfielders have interchanged so far in Russia, while their attacking midfield triumvirate offer pace and skill behind Radamel Falcao’s guile.
Juan Quintero, looking resurgent after a tricky few years, is picking the locks behind Falcao, who has an eye for a goal and the chance to hush doubters that grew during difficult periods at Manchester United and Chelsea.
The striker missed the 2014 World Cup through injury so is looking to right some wrongs, while the directness of Juan Cuadrado – another to struggle at Chelsea – offers a threat down the wing.
Injury concerns over star turn and 2014 Golden Ball winner James Rodriguez would damage Colombia, but Premier League viewers will be aware of the threat Brighton’s Juan Izquierdo could pose if brought in.
As for England, they boast the leading goalscorer in Russia. Kane will look to add to his five goals after being given a breather against Belgium.
Raheem Sterling, so brilliant for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, is looking for a first international goal since October 2015. Fit-again Dele Alli is likely to come back into midfield alongside in-form Jesse Lingard and composed Jordan Henderson.