James Rodriguez key for Colombia, says Tim Vickery


South American football expert Tim Vickery says England will have one foot in the World Cup quarter-finals if they can keep Colombia's front four quiet

James Rodriguez could miss Colombia’s World Cup last-16 clash with England through injury, and South American football expert Tim Vickery says Jose Pekerman’s side are not the same team without the Bayern Munich star.

The 26-year-old did not start Colombia’s World Cup opening defeat to Japan because of a calf injury, but returned to make a big impact in his side’s 3-0 victory over Poland.

Rodriguez then limped from the field after 31 minutes of the 1-0 World Cup victory on Thursday afternoon, which sealed Colombia’s place at the top of Group H, leaving him a doubt for his side’s clash with England in Moscow on Tuesday.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, Vickery says England will be handed a major boost in their bid to reach the quarter-finals if Rodriguez fails to play against Gareth Southgate’s side.

“It’s a little bit too early to tell [if he’s out of the England game],” he said. “The coach Jose Peckerman said in his press conference after the Senegal game that he was very worried because Rodriguez had looked alright.

“He’s had this niggling problem for a while. They didn’t play him from the start in the first game and he came back magnificently in the second game. He’d looked alright in training but he wasn’t right at all.

“He was a passenger against Senegal so Colombia are worried,” he added. “They don’t have a lot of time to get him back but perhaps it’s a promising sign that we did see him running onto the field in celebration at the end of the game.

“Whether that was just the euphoria of Colombia having made the knockout stage or that he can shake off this niggling little injury that he’s had we will see because without him Colombia are not the same side.”

If Rodriguez does return to take his place in Colombia’s team to face England he is likely to line up alongside Radamel Falcao, Juan Cuadrado and Juan Quintero.

“Against Poland, Colombia had their front four all firing together,” he said. “Falcao is the predatory centre-forward and they had Cuadrado flying down the right wing.

“There’s also Rodriguez, who strides the field like a prince and a guy who has come so good in this competition in Juan Quintero.

“The little left-footed playmaker played in the last World Cup but hadn’t played a competitive game for Colombia until this tournament. He lost focus, ate too much, put on weight and got obsessed with music but he’s got his focus back.

“He’s been behind most of the good things that Colombia have done in the tournament. Keep that front four quiet and England have half a foot in the quarter-finals.”