- The buzzword surrounding this England side has nothing to do with their style on the field, but their perception off it: likeability. It starts with manager Gareth Southgate’s thoughtful image as a passionate manager yet without the insularity and anti-intellectualism of the past. Their starting XI against Tunisia in the opening group stage match was a relatively young average age of 26 years old that was a symbol break from previous underachieving sides.
- Manchester City midfielder Fabian Delph embodies his side’s humility in working his way up through mid-table clubs while maintaining the positional versatility required to play in Southgate’s three and four defender backline. He discusses the bond between his teammates in contrast to the toxicity and divisiveness of the 2006 England side featuring the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard who put club over country. That side lost on penalties to Portugal in the quarterfinals.
- We wondered when the depth and variety of managerial talent in the Premier League would show its influence on the national side. While Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp are credited with the development of many of its young talents, England’s three defender backline mimics Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola’s shape. This is a clear example of the national side benefitting from the minds of its domestic league.
- James Rodriguez limped off with a calf injury in the first half of Colombia’s last group stage match against Senegal, and is out of the lineup against England. He’s either scored or assisted 10 out of Colombia’s last 15 goals.
- James’ midfield partner Juan Quintero is described as a old school playmaker, a throwback to past #10’s, and a “genius” by manager Jose Pekerman. The River Plate midfielder played the through ball to Falcao for Colombia’s second goal against Poland and will be relied upon as Falcao’s main source for creativity.
- In response to Quintero, his midfield counterpart Jordan Henderson hasn’t lost in his last 28 matches with England (22 wins and six draws).
- Colombia are predictably sitting back early in the match without James dictating possession.
- Colombia fullbacks Johan Mojica and Santiago Arias are essential in their 1 on 1 defending against Ashley Young and Kieran Trippier, especially after England switch the ball diagonally.
- From Juan Cuadrado vs. Harry Maguire, Wilmar Barrios vs. Henderson, Sterling vs. Mina, Falcao vs. the ref, what the first half lacked in goals was made up for in intensity. There will be at least one red card somewhere in this match.
- Carlos Sanchez giving away a penalty on Harry Kane was obvious with how he tried to prevent Kane from lining up on the corner kick. Referee Mark Geiger stared at Sanchez the entire time.
- Dele Alli is unable to hit his trademark late run into the box by starting out wide on the left side. He and Sterling occupy the same position, with Sterling winning out as the main playmaker behind Kane. Alli has had a quiet World Cup and was subbed off for Eric Dier in the 81st minute as Southgate went for defensive solidity to see out the match.
- It’s difficult to see how Colombia would equalize without James. Juan Cuadrado skied a chance after a Kyle Walker mistake. Cuadrado remains a mystery as he’s never achieved the potential he showed at Fiorentina with a bigger side.
- The slow motion capture of Jordan Pickford tipping Mateur Uribe’s shot wide with his far hand is mesmerizing.
- Yerry Mina is the first defender to score three headed goals in a World Cup since 1966. Barcelona were criticized in moving Mina straight from South America to La Liga without a buffer period in Portugal or the Netherlands. Mina was linked to Liverpool this summer after a supposed falling out with Ernesto Valverde, with Samuel Umtiti and Gerard Pique in front of him at Barcelona. Barcelona cannot sell him after these performances.
- Before the shootout, Fox Soccer displayed a montage of every time England were knocked out international tournaments by penalties, including Southgate missing the decisive penalty in the 1996 Euros. Southgate emphasized the psychological nature of taking penalties under pressure in training, imploring his players to “own the process” by taking their time in the lead up to a penalty.
- Kane and Marcus Rashford each went to their left corner. Henderson missed to his right. Trippier smashed it into the upper left while Dier won the match going back to the left corner.
- On the other side, Pickford said in studying Colombia’s penalty patterns, only Falcao went the other way from where he expected.
- The biggest surprise of the match was that it ended with no red cards and just eight yellow cards.
- In another example of breaking with the past, Southgate told his players after the win to “write their own stories” and be the team that gives future generations belief.
- Pekerman complained of England’s physicality and diving inside the box. Humble off the field, cynical enough to get tough results on it - this may be a different England side after all.
A World Cup Abstract: England 1 (4), Colombia 1 (3)