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30th Jun 2018

Paul Merson backs England to beat “poor” Colombia and reach World Cup semis

Nothing to worry about, then...

Simon Lloyd

Colombia are "poor", says Paul Merson

Fear not, England fans. Your team’s last-16 game with Colombia should be an absolute doddle…

But don’t take that from us, take it from Paul Merson, who fully expects Gareth Southgate’s men to make it to the last four of the World Cup in Russia.

England lost their final group game after Adnan Januzaj scored the only goal for Belgium early in the second half on Thursday night, meaning Roberto Martinez’s side won the group. Had the game finished in a draw, England would have topped the group on the newly introduced fair play rule and set up a last-16 game with Japan.

Instead, they will face what many consider to be a tougher test in the first knock-out stage against the South Americans – although have avoided being in the same side of the draw as Argentina, Brazil and European champions, Portugal.

Although many have pointed out that Colombia boast several very decent attacking players in their ranks, Merson isn’t concerned, insisting the Three Lions should have a clear path to the last four.

“I watched Colombia the other day and there’s nothing to be scared of there for England,” the former Arsenal player says in his World Cup predictions column for Sky Sports.

“They are dangerous at set plays but we are as good as anybody at set plays. I was sat there watching the Belgium game saying please don’t score!

“If we don’t get to the last four I’d be shocked. At the start of the tournament, we were saying that if we’d get past the quarter-finals it’d be great but if we don’t get to a semi-final now it won’t have been a very good tournament.”

Despite his optimism about England’s chances of reaching the last four, Merson still sees Brazil as winning the tournament.

“I’ve always said we’ve had a chance but at the moment I can’t see past Brazil.

“However, from here if we don’t reach the semi-finals you have to class it as disappointing. The route we’ve got now is Colombia, who have been poor and had James Rodriguez limped out of the Senegal game.

“Then it’s Sweden or Switzerland. No disrespect to the two countries but if you can’t beat them you are not winning World Cups.”

Something tells us not every Englishman will be quite so optimistic about their chances against Colombia.