'Pointless' to look beyond Colombia, says Southgate

AFP
England coach Gareth Southgate said it was "pointless" to look beyond his team's World Cup last-16 tie against Colombia on Tuesday despite the wide open nature of their side...
AFP

AFP

England coach Gareth Southgate said it was "pointless" to look beyond his team's World Cup last-16 tie against Colombia on Tuesday despite the wide open nature of their side of draw.

Following Spain's surprise exit against hosts Russia, England are the only team remaining in their half of the draw to have previously lifted the trophy.

But they have not won a knockout game at a major tournament in 12 years, since David Beckham's free-kick sealed a 1-0 victory over Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup.

"I think we've been in this position before many times over the last however many years," said Southgate.

"It's pointless about us even thinking about what might happen after tomorrow's game. We're focusing on tomorrow's performance and then maybe things will fall into place."

Victory against Colombia would send England through to a quarter-final against Sweden or Switzerland. If they made it past that hurdle, Croatia or Russia would be waiting in the last four.

However, Southgate used England's shock defeat to tiny Iceland in the last 16 at Euro 2016 as a warning not to get carried away.

"Maybe it's a trap we've fallen into in the past," he said.

"A few of these players were in the last (European) championships. There was a fixture they felt was one that should be won. And then having gone behind from being ahead and feeling comfortable they realised that maybe some of that approach wasn't correct.

"I don't expect the same tomorrow."

England scored eight goals in their opening two matches, beating Tunisia 2-1 with a late Harry Kane goal before thrashing Panama 6-1.

They then lost 1-0 to Belgium as Southgate made wholesale changes, but the England boss wants his players to stick with the same philosophy that has brought them success.

"It's a game we're really looking forward to, the sort of match you want to be involved in," Southgate said.

"We've got to concentrate on our football, playing with the same style we've played throughout the tournament.

"We need to play with the same mentality and freedom and to continue to attack the tournament the way we have."

- Ready for penalties -

England's poor record in penalty shootouts is well-documented -- they have lost six out of seven at major tournaments.

Southgate himself missed the decisive spot-kick in a Euro 96 semi-final with Germany, but the former defender believes his team are ready for any such situation.

"We've been through the various drills to prepare," he said. "Once we get to that point we sort of know our ranking of players. We're prepared but there's a lot of football before that point."

Dele Alli is fully fit and could return in England's midfield after missing the past two games, but Colombia star James Rodriguez remains a doubt.

The Bayern Munich midfielder limped off with a calf problem during the first half of Colombia's 1-0 win over Senegal, although Jose Pekerman said it was not a "serious injury".

"Whether James plays or not changes the profile of the left side a little bit, but they have very good players to come into the team," Southgate said.

"We've analysed them and we think we know the areas where we need to be ready and the areas we can exploit."

Radamel Falcao will be another dangerman for England's defence. The Colombian is back on top form at Monaco after two dismal years at Manchester United and Chelsea.

"I think you have to remember when he was playing in England he was recovering from an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury," Southgate said.

"I think he was never quite at full fitness but he seems to have rediscovered that at Monaco.

"We know the quality of his finishing. He's a player we know all about and we don't judge him on the period he had in the Premier League."



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