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World Cup 2018 Predictions: Picking Final Teams to Advance to Quarter-Finals

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2018

England's forward Raheem Sterling (L) and England's forward Harry Kane celebrate the teams sixth goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between England and Panama at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod on June 24, 2018. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
JOHANNES EISELE/Getty Images

England can edge Colombia by the odd goal in the final match of the round of 16 at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia on Tuesday.

Fitness doubts about gifted No. 10 James Rodriguez will hurt Los Cafeteros and hand the Three Lions the initiative to win at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow.

The day will begin with Sweden trying to stifle Switzerland's threat on the break. Yet La Nati have enough pace and ingenuity in wide areas, particularly in the form of Xherdan Shaqiri, to shade a close and likely dour game.

             

England 2-1 Colombia

A Colombia side without Rodriguez pulling the strings lacks the flair and quick passing to stretch an England back three that has looked vulnerable at times.

Rodriguez remains a doubt, despite coach Jose Pekerman sounding hopeful his creative talisman will be available, per the Telegraph's Ben Rumsby: "We still have one-and-a-half days to see how he feels and, as  always, we hope, of course, that he will be able to play for the following games."

If Rodriguez can't start, Pekerman may feel comfortable relying on Juan Fernando Quintero to manufacture chances. The FC Porto schemer has been bossing the final third for his country the way Rodriguez has done in years past:

OptaJavier @OptaJavier

2 - Juan Fernando Quintero is the second #COL player to score or assist in each of the first three #WorldCup matches (1 goal, 2 assists); after James Rodríguez did it in the last edition (3 goals, 2 assists). Coffee. https://t.co/aE40fIZV1j

Yet for all his guile and endeavour, Quintero could find himself outdone by England duo Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling. The latter's pace and perceptive movement will drag uncompromising defenders out of position.

If Sterling's runs can stretch the Colombia back four, Kane will profit. The striker has five goals to his name so far, but he will meet a familiar face in the form of fellow Tottenham Hotspur star Davinson Sanchez.

Along with Yerry Mina, the 22-year-old has been unforgiving to strikers at the tournament. Yet Sanchez will find it difficult to track Kane, who only needs half a chance to score and isn't afraid of taking a shot early.

Prediction: Colombia 1-2 England

                  

Sweden 0-1 Switzerland

Switzerland have mastered the art of keeping games close while relying on some individual magic up top. Most of the latter quality comes from winger Shaqiri, who helped himself to a goal and an assist during La Nati's Group E campaign.

The Stoke City man's understanding of positioning, allied with his natural acceleration and flair, can unlock a stubborn Sweden defence. The group surrendered just two goals through three matches and frustrated free-flowing Mexico in Group F.

Shaqiri will be the likely match-winner for Switzerland.
Shaqiri will be the likely match-winner for Switzerland.Natasha Pisarenko/Associated Press

Sweden's defence is led brilliantly by skipper Andreas Granqvist and Celtic man Mikael Lustig. The pair are both over 30 and will likely struggle to cope with the pace of Shaqiri and fellow wide forward Breel Embolo.

There will need to be a resolute effort from a Swiss defence set to be without Fabian Schar and Stephan Lichtsteiner due to suspensions, per the Telegraph.

The same source reported 31-year-old ex-Arsenal man Johan Djourou will step in for Schar, ensuring some vital experience at the heart of the back line.

Switzerland have enough resolve defensively, along with the cutting edge on the break, to sneak by Sweden.

Prediction: Sweden 0-1 Switzerland

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