World Cup: England trio cause concern for Southgate

Jamie Vardy looks increasingly likely to miss England's World Cup quarter-final against Sweden tomorrow with manager Gareth Southgate needing to assess the fitness of up to three of his players on the eve of the game.

Colombia took the Three Lions all the way on Tuesday when it took England’s second penalty shootout victory to secure progress from the last 16 after it ended 1-1 after 120 minutes.

Naturally, those exertions took their toll and Southgate likened the dressing to room to a “scene from M*A*S*H*

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The England boss has allayed concerns over the fitness of Dele Alli, Ashley Young and Kyle Walker, but suggested as many as three players are in question heading into the Sweden match.

England manager Gareth Southgate.

Vardy, who went on as a second-half substitute against Colombia, is one of those after sustaining a groin strain that required an injection.

“Vardy didn’t train [yesterday], so is looking doubtful for this game,” Southgate said last night.

“But we’ll know a bit more [today], really. The others were all on the pitch. We didn’t do a lot.

“I think at this stage, minimal time on the pitch, a lot of our information is going to have to be in meetings because it really is as much about recovery, physical and psychological, as everything else.

“The downside of that is we can’t push the players enough [yesterday] to see whether they’re okay.

“So we’ll know more [today]. We’ll have to make late decisions. I think every team will be in the same boat on that.

“Dele was absolutely fine after the game, didn’t feel anything. I think the extra couple of days were really helpful for him.

“Had he gone into the last one a bit earlier he might have come out of the game feeling something. He was fine.

“Young and Walker, we’ve no reason to believe they’re serious issues. They were back on their feet [yesterday]. But equally there might be a couple of others, who [England will not know the extent of their injuries] until they’re extending themselves a bit more. I think when you’ve had a long game like that you don’t know until you’ve really started to extend in training again exactly what you might be carrying.

“But our feeling is certainly nothing serious, but two or three in particular that we’ve probably got to assess quite closely and see exactly what level they’re at. Again, because we’ve got good players to come in.

“So if we’ve got players that are 75 per cent, then the guys who haven’t been in the team deserve to come in and be at 100 per cent.”

Southgate’s first-choice line-up is clear, having reverted to the side that started their World Cup opener against Tunisia at the first opportunity.

But the England manager’s confidence in his squad to succeed is palpable, which is why nobody will start against Sweden unless they are fully-fit.

“It’s not so much about taking a risk,” Southgate said, having welcomed former Leeds United player Fabian Delph back to the squad following a trip home for the birth of his third child.

“It’s more about being able to perform. The lads would always be prepared to risk injury for these games. But that can’t be at the detriment of the performance level.

“And we’ve got to take performance decisions.

“Oddly enough when it gets to these games they’re not always as honest as they might be about how fit they are.

“So you’ve got to have a racehorse trainer’s eye at times to really try and sort that out.

“It’s not straightforward, we won’t see everything, but we’ll have a feel from what they’re reporting and the way they’re running and try and make the best decisions we can.”

Meanwhile, former Barnsley defender John Stones has branded Colombia the “dirtiest” team he has faced as the fallout from their World Cup clash continued.

The Manchester City centre-back says he was astounded at the tricks Colombia played during the second-round clash in Moscow on Tuesday.

Stones highlighted a number of incidents – including Wilmar Barrios avoiding a red card for a headbutt on Jordan Henderson – and was critical of Colombia’s physical and mental provocation

He said: “The game was so strange. It was the dirtiest team I’ve ever come up against, in the respect of when we won a penalty surrounding the referee, pushing the referee, the headbutt you’ve all seen, scuffing the penalty spot, a lot of off the ball stuff I’m sure you’ve not heard about. All the sort of things you don’t really hear in a football match.

“On our behalf it showed massive character to keep a cool head and not get dragged into their game.

“We stuck to our plan and kept playing our way of football and that’s a great quality to have. It was a difficult situation, but one we’ve overcome and can be proud of.”

Stones, though, refused to go into detail over exactly what Colombia were doing off the ball.

“I’d rather not, it would get me in a bit of trouble. I’ve never seen a game like that before and how they behaved,” he said.

“I thought there could have been several red cards, mainly off-the-ball stuff.

“If the referee sees the headbutt it’s a totally different game.

“The best thing for us was to beat them at football, that is the biggest thing which will hurt them. They’re on the plane going home and we’re in the next round.”

He added: We stuck to our game plan and to beat them at football, that will hurt more than us getting into a scrap.”

Stones made his comments amid news that a petition demanding England’s match with Colombia be replayed has been signed by over 200,000 people dismayed by the Three Lions’ victory.

The petition calls for the contest to be staged again on account of two refereeing decisions.

In the petition it is argued England’s second-half penalty should not have been awarded and that American referee Mark Geiger was wrong to stop play in extra-time before Colombian striker Carlos Bacca put the ball in the net.

The petition concludes with a message urging FIFA “to review these two actions, in order to set a precedent for fair play, where good play prevails”.

FIFA have already commented on the performance of Geiger and his colleagues in a statement issued in response to Diego Maradona’s criticism, with the governing body calling the match officials’ display “positive in a tough and highly emotional match”.

England went ahead in the last-16 encounter after Geiger awarded a penalty when he deemed ex-Aston Villa midfielder Carlos Sanchez was guilty of wrestling Harry Kane to the ground in the box.

The petition argues this was a “non-existent foul” and that it was “evidently judged wrongly” by Geiger. Colombia coach Jose Pekerman had said after the game that England players “fall in the box” and claimed there was “confusion” over the amount of physical contact tolerated at set-pieces.

In extra-time the referee halted play following an England throw-in as the intended recipient Harry Maguire was distracted by another ball that would have entered the pitch had the assistant not prevented it from doing so.

The second ball never actually entered the field of play due to the assistant intervening and, though the whistle had already gone, Bacca then slotted home for a ‘goal’ that would have put Colombia 2-1 ahead.

Once more the petition argues Geiger had got that decision wrong and that Bacca was denied a “legitimate goal”.

While much has been made of the Colombians’ antics during the contest, Geiger has attracted plenty of criticism in South America.

Colombia striker Radamel Falcao accused the American referee of “bias” towards England while Argentinian World Cup winner Maradona’s words were even stronger.

Maradona, who had been pictured in a Colombia shirt prior to the game, described the result as a “monumental robbery” and told Venezuelan television channel Telesur he blamed the chairman of FIFA’s referees committee, Pierluigi Collina, for awarding the fixture to Geiger.

Those remarks prompted a statement from FIFA, which read: “Following comments made by Diego Armando Maradona in relation to Tuesday’s round of 16 game, Colombia v England, FIFA strongly rebukes the criticism of the performance of the match officials, which it considers to have been positive in a tough and highly emotional match”.

Maradona has since apologised for the views he aired in an Instagram post of him and FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

Meanwhile Stones confirmed Jamie Vardy did not train with the group yesterday as he continues to nurse a groin injury ahead of tomorrow’s game in Samara.