The defence tends to try hold a high line, and they have been caught out on occasion at the World Cup by long straight balls in behind. Robert Lewandowski missed a golden chance when put clean through on goal in Poland’s defeat to Colombia last week.
Will England beat Colombia? How their World Cup opponents play, strengths, weaknesses and will James Rodriguez be fit?
Before everyone starts talking about who England have managed to avoid in the World Cup quarter-finals by losing to Belgium on Thursday night, there is one pretty major team standing in their way.
Colombia are the side most England fans would have wanted to avoid in the second round. Of the relatively evenly-matched teams in Group H, they are the only side with a handful of game-changers in attack, capable of hurting any opponent.
After having a man sent off third minute of their World Cup opener, they recovered to win their final two group stage games by an aggregate score of four goals to nil, finishing top of the group.
But this is also a team whose weaknesses have been exposed at this early stage of the competition. So, what kind of team will England face in Moscow on Tuesday?
How do they play?
Jose Pekerman likes his team to dominate possession and grind opponents down. They play out from the back with two young centre-backs in Tottenham’s Davinson Sanchez and Barcelona’s Yerry Mina both used to playing that way at club level.
Going forwards, they try to get their technical wizards in the attacking midfield positions in their 4-2-3-1 formation on the ball as quickly as possible. The two defensive midfielders are primarily there as blockers and do little to aid attacking moves.
Juan Cuadrado, James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero are the dangermen further forward. The three of them have pace, trickery, guile and immense creative ability, having laid on 12 of Colombia’s 16 chances so far in Russia.
They are by no means limited to this kind of football, though, possessing a significant threat on the counter, with the speed of Quintero and Cuadrado their main weapons.
Rodriguez’s pass and Cuadrado finish on the break against Poland perfectly encapsulated what this Colombia side can do.
Is James injured?
There is a very real possibility that key man James Rodriguez could miss, or at least be only part fit for, the England game next week.
He was only able to appear from the bench against Japan, and then limped off after only 31 minutes against Senegal yesterday.
Pekerman admitted last night he was “extremely concerned” about James, adding that this was “not a comfortable situation for us”.
In the 152 minutes James has been on the pitch at the World Cup, Colombia have scored three goals, two of which came in open play. In the 118 minutes James has been absent, Colombia have scored twice, once from a corner and once from a direct free-kick. They lose much of their threat when James is missing.
That said, whether or not James is playing, Colombia are a real danger at set-pieces. Centre-back Mina has two goals in two appearances, and Sanchez is another player than can cause England problems.
Quintero can put a decent ball into the box – as he did for Mina’s winner against Senegal – in James’ absence, and Radamel Falcao is an obvious threat in the box at any attacking situation, not least dead balls.
Back-to-back clean sheets will have built confidence in the Colombian defence, but every opponent they have come up against has had opportunities to score. England will be no different.
Spurs fans know plenty about Sanchez’s defensive capabilities: his reading of the game is second-to-none, he is brilliant in the air and few will out-pace him.
But they will also be well aware that he constantly looks on the brink of calamity. His ability to make up for a lapse is incredible, but Harry Kane will be looking to get in behind at the first hint of any mistake.
Mina is highly-rated, having signed for Barcelona in January, but he didn’t play much in the second half of the season and may be ever-so-slightly rusty.
At 23 and 22 years old, this is a centre-back pairing distinctly lacking in experience.
Behind them, Arsenal’s David Ospina is a very good shot-stopper, but he too has an error in him. Harry Maguire may well be instructed to put pressure on Ospina at corners.
What’s England’s head-to-head record against Colombia?
The teams have played each other five times, with England so far unbeaten, winning three games and drawing two.
Their only previous World Cup meeting was in the group stage at France 1998, when goals from Darren Anderton and David Beckham wrapped up a 2-0 win.