LONDON: England manager Gareth Southgate has risked ratcheting up World Cup last 16 opponents Colombia’s motivation by fielding a B team in their last group game believing that would earn them an easier route to the final, warns England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup winning coach Clive Woodward.
England earned the right to play the Colombians on Tuesday after a 1-0 loss to Belgium last Thursday to finish runners-up in their group.
Woodward takes issue with the selection policy of Southgate — although his Belgian counterpart Roberto Martinez also made sweeping changes — but is more staggered by another facet of the thinking behind the policy.
“The thing I am really struggling with, though, is a much bigger point,” he wrote in the Daily Mail on Monday.
“England have hardly covered themselves in glory in tournaments over the last two decades yet they were wasting time and energy and getting distracted thinking about possible quarter-finals and semi-finals.
“Don’t even go there, just win the next match and the next after that.”
Woodward drew on his experience of a tough first knockout stage match in the 2003 World Cup with Wales, after taking their pedal off the gas for their final two pool matches, to illustrate to Southgate the perils of tinkering with winning line-ups and taking the sharpness off the first team players.
“Who on earth ever thought that somehow Colombia would be the easy route, one of the best attacking teams in world football and a side who reached the Olympic quarter-finals”
“Nobody qualifying for the World Cup last 16 gets lucky.
“The one team who will be relishing all this is Colombia — what greater motivation than an England team believing playing them is an easier way to glory!—AFP