“We’re gonna score one less than you… England!” Wouldn’t have been that catchy, would it? And who wants vindaloo in this weather anyway?
England face Colombia on Tuesday night, thanks to scoring one goal less than Belgium on Thursday. But was it part of a Machiavellian plan all along? Did Danny Rose show Adnan Januzaj inside deliberately in order to let him score? We’re through the looking glass here, people.
Whether it was by accident or design here we are. England, who have only won five World Cup knock-out games on foreign soil in their history, are in the easier side of the draw so must be destined for the final presumably. But recent history suggests this could easily be the end of the road for them in Russia.
All eight group runners-up went out at this stage four years ago, and only one of them sneaked through the round of 16 in 2010. Even then, that was Ghana beating the USA after extra-time, so can England buck the trend of the last two World Cups and get through in 90 minutes?
Paddy thinks so, as England are priced at even money to do just that, while Colombia are 3/1 and the draw is 9/4. And leaving aside the curious dead rubber with Belgium, Gareth Southgate’s first choice team have been on a decent run.
Prior to defeat on Thursday night, England had won nine and drawn three of their 12 games in 2017/18, and only failed to score three times in that period.
Colombia are far harder to judge. Their only defeat this year saw them play for 87 minutes with 10 men, and they came from 2-0 down to beat France in Paris in March. But they have also drawn 0-0 with both Australia and Egypt in the last three months, and while they beat Senegal last time out, they only had four shots in the whole match.
Whatever the final outcome, I won’t be expecting goals, as they always dry up in the knock-out stage of the World Cup. Across the last three editions, the 24 matches at this stage have collectively averaged just 1.9 goals per game, and there were just 11 (in 90 minutes) in the eight last 16 matches in Brazil.
There have only been three-or-more goals in three of England’s last ten matches too. One of those was down to Tunisia winning a very soft penalty, and another thanks to Panama being rubbish. You’ll only get odds of 9/20 for there to be under 2.5 goals, but I’d take them if I were you.
With both teams looking strong defensively, it wouldn’t surprise me if at least one of them drew a blank here. Colombia haven’t conceded in any of their last four matches where they haven’t had a man sent off early doors. England have only conceded six times in their 13 matches this season, so I’ll be going for a ‘no’ on both teams to score. It’s yours at 8/13.
Although a 0-0 wouldn’t surprise me, and it’s available at 11/2 if it wouldn’t surprise you either, I think there will be at least one goal. Colombia have played 21 World Cup games and never had a bore draw, after all.
If nothing else, someone will probably score from a set piece; these two teams were in the top four for dead ball goals in the group stage, and both conceded from one too.
You can bet on which half has more goals, and I think the 6/5 for it to be the second half looks decent. In the group stage, 61% of the 122 goals came after the break, and as this looks destined to be a close encounter of the second round kind, I’d say we can expect that trend to apply here.
You’re probably bored of me advising you to bet on Harry Kane in the scorer market, but until someone else starts scoring even vaguely regularly for England it’ll be hard not to. Captain Kane is the 3/1 favourite to score first, or 5/4 to bag one at some point.
If you fancy going for someone with longer odds, I’d consider Jesse Lingard. He has scored twice in his last five starts for England, got the goal of the game against Panama, and also missed a hat full of chances against Tunisia. The Manchester United man is 7/2 to add his name to the score sheet or 15/2 to break the deadlock.
It’s a similar picture for Colombia, where Radamel Falcao is their run-away favourite at 11/2 first scorer or 5/2 any time, but they don’t have any consistent back up to him. James Rodriguez would be that man, but with injury doubts hanging over him, it’s hard to make a case for him. Unless you’ve heard a whisper he was bluffing against Japan that is, in which case 7/2 for him to score looks worth considering.
This is such a tough match to call. It feels like a very winnable fixture for England, but so did Iceland and Costa Rica in recent tournaments. As half of their World Cup knock-out matches since the 1966 final have gone to extra-time, I think this will too. Sit on the fence with me, there’s plenty of room.