Gareth Southgate: Colombia clash is England's biggest in a decade

Danny Woods
June 30, 2018

Colombia completed the first round with a 1-0 victory over Senegal that sent them into the last 16 as Group H winners and dumped the African side out of the tournament in a thrilling finale.

Had they won their group England would have been on a path to a quarter-final on Friday, July 6 (7pm), on the same evening that Norwich play King's Lynn Town in their first pre-season friendly.

Southgate felt England were slightly unfortunate not to escape with a point against Belgium.

Southgate has come under scrutiny for making so many changes to a winning side, opting to leave high-profile players including captain Harry Kane on the bench against Belgium.

At Euro 2016, finishing second to Italy in their group meant Belgium would avoid meeting Germany, France, or defending champions Spain before the final.

But Southgate said he wasn't looking that far into the future, adding: "Which half of the draw - who knows what's right and wrong". "That's hugely important for the feeling in our camp over the next few weeks", said Southgate.

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"This was a game that we wanted to win, but the knockout game is the biggest game for a decade for us so we had to make sure our key players were preserved", said Southgate. "But everyone understands - in the dressing room and in the group - what we're trying to do".

There are no games on Friday but we are back with the business end of the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup on Saturday.

"We've got 20 outfield players who have now played in a World Cup". The support and encouragement from home has been brilliant. "I wasn't so comfortable with the love-in [before the game], to be honest, so it's nice that there's a little bit of an edge back". "Sometimes you have to make decisions for the bigger picture".

"I believe it is a game we can win but it is going to be a fantastic challenge for us", he said. "We can see our level and the level of the best and we want to keep improving".

"There was quite a ground swell from supporters as much as anything for Marcus Rashford to get a shout [to start for England] and if he'd have put that chance away it would have been a very different situation", he told Sky Sports News.

"They did unbelievably well at the last World Cup - it's not going to be easy at all".

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