Belfast Telegraph

Southgate banks on his gamble

Colombia next and star man a big doubt

By Robert Jones

England boss Gareth Southgate has now staked his reputation and his country's World Cup dream on his gamble to field a shadow side in last night's final 1-0 group game defeat by Belgium.

And his roll of the dice could yet pay off, despite England facing a tough looking last 16 knockout clash with Colombia in Moscow on Tuesday.

While group winners Belgium will be fancied to beat Japan, finishing second in the group means England are arguably now in the more favourable half of the draw, avoiding the possibility of facing Brazil in the quarter-finals should they get there.

The chances of that have increased with the news that Colombia could be without their Real Madrid star man James Rodriguez after the 2014 Golden Boot winner suffered a recurrence of his calf injury in yesterday's 1-0 win over Senegal.

After former Manchester United protégé Adnan Januzaj scored Belgium's winner, Southgate said: "None of us know if this side of the draw is advantageous or not. What we have to do is prepare for a thrilling knockout game. Our objective was to qualify from the group and we have done that."

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