Passing through Group H with good football moments and some really not good looking situations, Colombia face England as a very irregular team with some important flaws that can be explored by Southgate’s Three Lions.
Juan Quintero has been Colombia’s best player at the tournament so far, with bright performances in the first two games against Japan and Poland. He is a good creator and also a good ball carrier. His decision making can be questionable at times, but nevertheless he tries to make something happen and pulls it off more often than not.
These attributes have been moderated and put to incomplete use with James’ inclusion in the side. Quintero dropped himself deeper, allowing James to be incisive in attack.
Taking a look at Quintero’s dashboard, he scored 4,520 points in 224 minutes played, an average of 20.17 points per minute. Good numbers for a midfielder who is not a top scorer.
At the back Colombia have a couple of excellent individuals in Yerri Mina and Davinson Sanchez. The Spurs defender endured a disastrous opening game against Japan, although he was more impressive against Senegal where his recovery speed rescued Colombia.
The Barcelona centre-back has scored twice and is very dangerous on offensive set pieces. Also, he has shown a great performance at pressing the ball, and supplies great zonal marking work alongside Sanchez.
Mina scored 3,954 points in 189 minutes, at an average of 20.9 points per minute. A great job done by the dancer defender.
The most notable feature of Colombia’s performance against Senegal was their right flank. Santiago Arias, the right-back, continually pushed into central midfield positions throughout the first half, which meant right-winger Juan Cuadrado dropped extremely deep to receive possession in space away from his opponents.
Cuadrado sometimes attempted too much in deep positions, however, and his concession of possession resulted in opportunities to their opponents. On the other flank, Johan Mojica tends to dive into tackles, granting good set pieces opportunities, and we know how good England can be in dead ball situations.
The Juventus forward had the third best performance in the Colombian team, with 3,098 points in 220 minutes played (or 14.08 points per minute). It could be better, though, I believe.
JAMES IS THE KEY, BUT WILL HE APPEAR?
It was always a given that Colombia would perform better with their best player back in the starting lineup. What goes under the radar is the fact they have a lot of tactical instability, and that makes them unpredictable in many ways when they are in possession.
Quintero, who had a very good first game against Japan from a deeper central midfield role, was allowed to thrive with James taking up some of the creative responsibility from him.
But will James attempt to appear against England? In what shape will he be? Would he be able to put in a top performance?
The Bayern midfielder has scored 2,072 points in 163 minutes to this point, at an average of 12.7 points per minute. A really non-expressive performance for a top star man such as himself.
The speed of Colombia’s centre-backs could be key, against an England side eternally looking to get runners in behind. However, Gareth Southgate and his players will pinpoint plenty of weaknesses when assessing Colombia’s performances so far.
José Pékerman’s got really good players in his hand, but he has not been able to build a great team with good tactical solutions. It’s going to be a great match against the Three Lions, but the truth is if I have to put some pounds on a bet, I’ll stay with England.