Ian Abrahams’ World Cup Diary: England prepare for the knockout stages
Ian Abrahams is in Moscow for the duration of this year’s World Cup and looking forward to England’s crucial knockout game against Colombia.
In his latest diary from Russia, he looks back at the disappointing defeat to Belgium, how some of the big guns are shaping up, and gives us his prediction for the Round of 16…
England v Belgium…
The game was disappointing in two respects – it’s never great to lose in any tournament and you can’t turn form on and off like a tap.
I can appreciate squad players needed game time, and there’s no need to hammer the manager or the team after that result, but if you want to win a tournament you have to back yourself against the best teams.
Not a one-man team by any mean but James will be a big miss as he is their best player, and to me Falcao doesn’t look totally fit. We’ve never lost to Colombia and I think that trend will continue, but we’ll all be watching it in hope rather than feeling assured of victory.
I just don’t see this perceived ‘easier route’ being talked up in recent days. England have struggled against Sweden in recent years, and the potential semi-final opponents still look daunting. Croatia have been the best team so far, and Spain aren’t shabby either.
Japan would have been far easier Round of 16 opponents than Colombia so in many ways it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.
Improving the final group games…
I fully appreciate you can’t make this tournament any longer than it is for all sorts of reasons – affordability, player burnout, logistics – but FIFA need have a rethink on how the draw can be changed so we don’t get a repeat of last night’s game where two opponents have the luxury of thinking about their route through.
Could it be like the Champions League draw with the fixtures determined at the last minute? They’ve managed to revolutionise other areas of the sport so perhaps this is one they should look at.
The big guns…
As an England fan, of course it’s amusing to see Germany go out. It’s hard to have a pop at Low given his record over the years, but it was clear this time around there were too many factions in the team, and some older players needed moving on.
Argentina still have massive issues – the manager looks as if he has lost control, with the players running things by committee, led by Messi. You can get away with that for a game or two, but not for a whole tournament.
Bar a difficult 10-minute spell against Serbia, Brazil look very good. They are replicating the Germans and Italians in their previous World Cup wins, showing little improvements every game. There’s still a lot more to come from them.
Croatia have been the best team in the tournament and are still flying under the radar, whilst Uruguay have also gone quietly about their business. With so much focus on Argentina, Brazil and Germany over the last week, these could end up being the two teams to watch.
Ian’s Quickfire Predictions
France v Argentina
Verdict: I’m going with France here. Argentina have been very lucky to get here. Luck only gets you so far – it looks like it might be about to run out.
Ian’s Score: 2-1
Uruguay v Portugal
Verdict: Ronaldo has been lucky not to have been sent off in this tournament. Portugal don’t look good enough and I can see Uruguay edging them out.
Ian’s Score: 1-0
Spain v Russia
Verdict: This is it for Russia. There is absolutely no way Russia will beat Spain. I think Costa will have a field day.
Ian’s Score: 3-0
Croatia v Denmark
Verdict: Denmark are very hard to beat and will defend for their lives. This could go to extra time, but I can Croatia sneaking a narrow win.
Ian’s Score: 1-0
Brazil v Mexico
Verdict: After I saw Mexico beat Germany I thought they looked really good but they’ve gone downhill since then and after the pasting by Sweden, they will need to rediscover their performance levels from that first game to stand a chance. A handy Brazil win.
Ian’s Score: 2-0
Belgium v Japan
Verdict: This looks very one-sided. With the first team back, an easy Belgium win.
Ian’s Score: 3-0
Sweden v Switzerland
Verdict: It would not surprise me at all if this one goes all the way. Two evenly matched teams, the Swedes have the height advantage but, the Mexico game aside, generally struggle to score. The Swiss will be reliant on the guile and skill of Shaqiri. This’ll be a one-goal game – for Sweden.
Ian’s Score: 1-0
Colombia v England
Verdict: We haven’t kept a clean sheet so far, and I can see that continuing here. We’re certainly capable of getting two but it might include a nerve-wracking extra half hour.
Sanchez and Izquierdo are decent Premier League players but England should just squeak through. It would be nice if we could win a game without Harry Kane, but we’ll probably need him to add to his tally here.
Ian’s Score: 1-2
Do you agree with Ian’s predictions?
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