Juventus winger, Serie A midfielders instrumental in Colombia and Switzerland’s decent World Cup run


Few other Italian league protagonists were eliminated from the World Cup in the round of 16. Among those, the most recognizable one is Juan Cuadrado, who had a satisfying campaign in Russia. The winger is a mainstay in Colombia’s line-up and delivered with a pair of solid performances.

He was a victim of the circumstances against Japan, but then was very spry in the two wins over Poland and Senegal, which granted Los Cafeteros the qualification to the second stage. He punished his teammate Wojciech Szczesny keeping his aplomb in a one-on-one after a quick solo counter-attack. Continue reading

Maradona apologises over England “robbery” rant


Legendary Argentina striker Diego Maradona has apologised for claiming that England committed “monumental robbery” in their World Cup last-16 tie with Colombia on Tuesday evening. The former Napoli star was incensed that American referee Mark Geiger had apparently shown a bias towards England, punishing Colombia more often than the Three Lions. Speaking on a nightly World Cup show on Venezuela-based Telesur, Maradona had said: “Here’s a gentleman who decides, a referee who, if you Google him, shouldn’t be given a match of this magnitude… Geiger, an American, what a coincidence.”

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Euro Fantasy League Podcast – #22 – Round of 16 Review, Quarter-Finals Predicted


Dave and Jamie return to round up what’s been going on in those seven long days since they last darkened the airwaves. The group stages have finished, the round of 16 is now also done and dusted and now we look ahead to the quarters, and beyond.

#It’sComingHome #DareToDream

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Colombia lost their composure and let themselves down


After somehow succeeding past the group of death, it was not going to be easy for Colombia to go on to beating England in the Round of 16, especially without their key player in James Rodriguez. Whether the side had beaten Gareth Southgate’s men or not, they would have been more than happy to have reached past the group stages as well as take the Three Lions all the way to penalties.

Colombia coach, Jose Pekerman, kept the starting XI more or less the same, with the side setup in a 4-3-2-1 system as captain Radamel Falcao led the line as the lone forward. Meanwhile, Juan Cuadrado and Juan Quintero started behind the Monaco forward, who went on to show their movement and pace from time to time but failed to most importantly be effective in the final third.

Just in front of the defence, defensive-midfield Wilmar Barrios started at the centre of midfield with the likes of Carlos Sanchez and Jefferson Lerma alongside him. Despite doing more than enough in their own half to keep the England attackers quiet and to take the close game to penalties, they did not give their all to help produce forward passes and clear cut-chances into the side’s best players.

In defence, Arsenal’s David Ospina carried on his duty as the national team’s goalkeeper whilst the defence consisted of Johan Mojica, Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Santiago Arias from left to right. The backline of Colombia were aggressive and ruthless from start till end, which became one of the main reasons to why England sat deep and decided to defend their lead in the second half.

Throughout the chaotic and historical night in Moscow, England had the more positive and attacking approach on and off the ball whilst Colombia’s aim was to nullify the opposition on an unconvincing level the led them to making several inappropriate and badly chosen fouls. The good news for Pekerman’s side is that the intentional fouls were actually gone without any punishment and the team were lucky to still have 11 players on the pitch from the first minute of the game till the end.

10 minutes into the second half, England received a penalty from the referee as he caught Carlos Sanchez pushing Harry Kane around in the penalty box as the side’s corner was delivered in by Kieran Trippier. The Tottenham Hotspur hitman stepped up to take the penalty and smashed it down the middle, as David Ospina misjudged the timing of the ball and dived completely the wrong way.

The remainder of the match was purely unconvincing from England, however, Colombia took their game up a notch as Pekerman went all out by bringing on the likes of Carlos Bacca and Luis Muriel from the bench. This positive change allowed the side to have more possession in England’s half as well as allowed the team to have some players to target in the box through crosses and passes.

During the final moments of added time at the end of the game, Juan Cuadrado’s cross from the corner was perfectly met by the head of Yerry Mina, which had the ideal pace and power that even Kieran Trippier could not prevent it from going past him and into the back of the net. Once it went in, the English supporters were totally shell shocked as the Colombian fans sang loud and proud.

Extra time was not much to be mentioned about as both sides chose to play it all safe and only take risks from potential set-pieces and dangerous areas. Other than that, the 30 minutes of extra time quick flew by and the nerve-wrecking time had come where the chosen players had to step up and take part in the penalty duties.

The night ended in disappointment and frustration for Colombia as a whole nation as they were eliminated by England, who were actually better on the night and were here to play football and not an aggressive sport. Jose Pekerman’s men will certainly regret a number of key moments in the game, where they chose to mentally and physically drain the opposition instead of attacking with the intention of winning the game.

Overall, Colombia should seriously be happy with how far they came in the 2018 World Cup, and they should be excited and thrilled with the number of talented players they have within the national team. All they need to do now is, find a manager with the perfect philosophy and style of play that will replace Jose Pekerman.

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England must come up with Plan B for Sweden game

Maybe it really is coming home. Maybe this is just meant to be for England. Maybe after 52 years they are destined to win the World Cup game. If England can win a penalty shootout, then perhaps anything can happen. Now in the quarter finals, down to the final eight of the tournament, they certainly stand a chance of at least making it to Russia for the final on July 15.

Tuesday night’s penalty shootout win over Colombia will go down as a watershed moment in England’s World Cup campaign. Until then, Gareth Southgate’s side had been untested in Russia, coming through two games against low calibre opposition in Tunisia and Panama before facing a second-string Belgium in what was effectively a dead rubber.


However, despite the understandable hysteria that has come with England making the quarter finals, there are lessons to be learned from the failure to claim victory over Colombia in 120 minutes of play. Southgate’s side struggled to create chances from open play, relying on set pieces and a penalty kick from Harry Kane to test David Ospina.

Sweden are a stronger defensive unit than Colombia. They might lack a big name player, a strike of Kane’s ilk, but they are well-drilled, well-organised side. It’s for this reason that Southgate must come up with a Plan B for the quarter final tie on Saturday.

Southgate has the options to do this. Jamie Vardy is a striker capable of stretching the pitch and giving England an effective outlet on the counter attack. Marcus Rashford is another who can use his pace to open up pockets of space, not just for himself, but for others around him as well.

Then there’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek. It might be a good idea for the Chelsea midfielder, who spent last season on loan at Crystal Palace, to start the quarter final against Sweden. Loftus-Cheek was key in breaking through the lines of midfield and attack in the final 10 minutes of the opening group game against Tunisia, when England faced a defence content with sitting deep and plugging the gaps.

Sweden will most likely pose England a similar sort of challenge. There won’t be much space to exploit in behind unless they draw the Scandinavians out, or if someone like Loftus-Cheek can push and pull defenders out of position. Dele Alli, in this regard, doesn’t do enough and so Southgate should drop him to the bench, particularly with the Spurs man apparently carrying an injury at the moment.

England showed their nerve by seeing off Colombia after such a tight and tense affair. But now they must show their quality if they are to get past Sweden and make the semi finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1990. A Plan B might not be necessary, but the Colombia game showed they must have one regardless.

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Which players have announced themselves this World Cup?


The World Cup is notoriously a tournament in which new stars can often emerge or firmly establish themselves as someone deemed eligible for the upper echelons of world football.

With us on the brink of hitting the quarter finals of the tournament, we’ve taken the opportunity to look at some of those building a reputation in 2018

Kylian Mbappe, France

Whilst the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi failed to drag their sites through from the round of 16, Mbappe was the man of the hour when his side needed a star to save the day against Argentina. Continue reading

Best Defender of the Week – Yerry Mina (Colombia)


It is a massive week for Colombian football. The nation knows that if they can get past England in the last 16 of the World Cup and book a place in the quarter-finals, then they can equal their all-time best showing at the biggest tournament in world football. That was achieved in the last World Cup in Brazil in 2014. They were ultimately eliminated by the hosts 2-1 in the final eight, but this time around face a showdown with either Sweden or Switzerland if they can get past Gareth Southgate’s men. If they are to achieve that, then of course the defence will have to be at their best to frustrate the Three Lions’ forward line. That makes it neatly time to name this week’s best defender, and it is none other than the South Americans’ Yerry Mina.

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This is a once in a generation chance for England

Colombia will put up a fight. The South Americans have significant World Cup pedigree, having made the round of 16 in Brazil four years ago. On their day, they can out-gun anyone. They have the attacking potency to blow away every opposition side in Russia this summer, including England.

It’s a tricky draw for Gareth Southgate’s men, but it comes with a caveat. On the other side of this last 16 tie is a once in a generation chance for England. Never again will a World Cup draw open up for them like it has over the past week or so. With Argentina, Germany, Portugal and Spain all eliminated from the equation, Croatia are the only heavyweights left in England’s side of the bracket.


So far, the Three Lions have enjoyed a positive World Cup. They scored eight times in their first two group games, seeing off Tunisia and Panama to secure an early passage into the last 16. This allowed Southgate to rest most of his key figures for the final group fixture against Belgium, a dead rubber for both sides.

Defeat in that game dropped England into the already weaker side of the draw, though, with Spain’s shock defeat to Russia making it even weaker. Should the Three Lions see off Colombia on Tuesday, they will face one of either Sweden or Switzerland in the quarter finals. Beyond that, they would take on Croatia or Russia. A route to the final can be plotted.

Of course, this England team have still to be truly tested. Southgate will surely be concerned with how his side have yet to keep a clean sheet at this World Cup, conceding in games against Tunisia, Panama and Belgium (even if the final group game was something of a dead rubber). Colombia carry much more of a goal threat than both Tunisia and Panama and so they could cause England’s back three some real issues on Tuesday.

“We’re in to big matches where margins will be fine and judgment on me will be extremely harsh. That’s why we’re here. We want to be in those games,” Southgate said after the final group game defeat to Belgium. “To be trying to win a first knockout game for 12 years is exciting.

“We’ve got the chance to be the team that changes that. It’s one of the reasons why we did what we did [against Belgium], to give ourselves the best possible opportunity of doing that. I wasn’t so comfortable with the love-in in the buildup to Belgium, to be honest, so it’s nice that there’s a little bit of an edge back.”

Indeed, the edge is back and England’s players will surely feel the tension against Colombia on Tuesday night. Not much was expected of them heading into this World Cup, but such is the way the chips have fallen those expectations have been ramped up. Waste this chance and England will rue it for a long, long time.

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Will England’s back three hold firm against Colombia?

England suffered their first defeat at this World Cup against Belgium on Thursday night, but in truth that loss faded in the memory almost as soon as the sun came up the next day. In what was a surreal scenario, this was something of a dead rubber for both sides, with their passage into the tournament’s last 16 already secured. Even weirder was the scenario that a defeat might have been more beneficial than a win.

Indeed, had England won or even drawn their final group game, finishing top of their section, they would have fallen into the side of the bracket that also featured Argentina, Brazil and France. As it eventually materialised, defeat sent England into the side of the draw that contained Croatia and Spain. There is a stronger and a weaker side and England might just have lucked out.


Of course, this doesn’t mean England will have ti easy. In the round of 16, they will come up against a Colombia side who can cause any opposition team damage on their day. James Rodriguez might be an injury doubt for the fixture, but the South Americans boast a number of top class players who will need to be watched.

Until now, Gareth Southgate has opted for a back three. Those three central defenders are flanked by wing backs, Ashley Young on the left and Kieran Trippier on the right. This has provided the foundation for a positive start to their World Cup campaign. There’s not much reason to change.

However, it should be noted that England have failed to keep a clean sheet in Russia this summer. Of course, the goal conceded to Belgium should be written off given the circumstances, but even against Tunisia and Panama, opponents of a much lower calibre, England leaked a goal.

In the first group game against Tunisia, this was a direct result of the back three. Kyle Walker was caught in a position that he ordinarily wouldn’t have found himself in. Walker is naturally a full back, but has been used as a right-sided central defender by Southgate at this World Cup. That has its benefits, largely in possession, but it also has its drawbacks.

Then there was the goal conceded against Panama, which saw the England defence neglect their duties from a set piece, allowing Felipe Baloy to make an unmarked run into the box. England won’t be able to make such mistakes against Colombia. They have players who will punish them to an even greater extent.

There is space between Walker and centre backs Harry Maguire and John Stones for the likes of Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado to exploit. But should England pass this test it would say a lot about their chances at this summer’s World Cup. For good or bad, this match will define England’s tournament.

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Colombia survive the group of death


After suffering a defeat to Japan in the first fixture of Group H, a lot of people were having doubts on whether Colombia would be able to pick themselves up from the floor and turn the situation around before it is too late. Also, the experts of the beautiful game were seriously shocked at their start to the competition as many had the South American side down as their dark horses of the tournament.

However, Los Cafeteros do what they do best, and they made sure that they were not going to leave Russia and most importantly the World Cup anytime soon. Once James Rodriguez returned into the line-up for the second game against Poland, the side were in full confidence and had the ability as well as the pure mentality to go on to beating Adam Nawalka’s side like it was a piece of cake.

With the goals coming from Juan Cuadrado, Radamel Falcao and Yerry Mina, the side have shown that there a number of talented players in all positions, who can go on to contribute towards the team on both sides of the pitch. Meanwhile in midfield, both Abel Aguilar and Wilmar Barrios were dictating play and keeping the Polish attackers quiet as well as helping the team progress forward.

In the final fixture of the group stages, Colombia had to make sure they picked up the three points against Senegal whilst the other match was been Japan and Poland. Despite having a slow start to the game, the side turned it up a notch in the second half and completed an incredible smash and grab victory, where Mina’s goal in the 75th minute put the team ahead and in the driving seat.

Up next, Jose Pekerman and Colombia will go head-to-head against Gareth Southgate’s England, who will have a huge point to prove as the Three Lions have been eliminated, from the European Championship or the World Cup in the group stages or the Round of 16 on many occasions. On Tuesday evening, football fans will see a thrilling match between two fearless and passionate sides.

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