David Ospina insists Colombia are better than four years ago and are not “frightened” of England

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David Ospina insists Colombia are better than the team that thrilled the world on their way to the World Cup quarter-finals four years ago and are not “frightened” of facing England.

Jose Pekerman’s team were inspired by James Rodriguez before being eliminated by the hosts, Brazil, in 2014.

The Bayern Munich forward, on loan from Real Madrid, expects to feature at some stage at Spartak Stadium in the last 16 clash with the Three Lions on Tuesday, after scans on the leg injury sustained against Senegal revealed he had not suffered a muscle tear.

And Ospina is confident England can be beaten to force passage into the last eight.

“We are a better team than four years ago,” the Arsenal goalkeeper said.

“We are together, more experienced and a stronger squad of players than we were in Brazil. We have experience and good quality. Our players play in the best clubs, the best leagues, and are used to playing in matches of this size, so nothing will frighten us.

“England are a good team but we did not mind who it was we would face. We just know we will give everything for our country and take strength from the support. We always give everything for our country. It’s such an honour to play for Colombia.”

Jamez Rodriguez is a doubt for Colombia.

Jamez Rodriguez is a doubt for Colombia.

Los Cafeteros will be lifted by the backing of around 40,000 supporters in Moscow.

Around 30,000 Colombian fans have been in Russia and another 10,000 are apparently heading to Moscow for the country’s third appearance in the knockout stages of the competition.

They will heavily outnumber their English counterparts, and Ospina is counting on their support to energise Colombia.

“The support has been incredible,” Ospina said. “It’s been our inspiration. There are Colombians all over the world but the support here, in Russia, has meant everything to us.

“It shows the passion and belief that we have in our country. It’s just amazing how many people have come here to support us. It has felt like a home game in every game for us.

“They make more noise, have more colour and we always have more supporters than the rest. It shows how much football means to our country. It’s not pressure, it’s strength for us.”

The 29-year-old, capped 89 times, is to discuss his future at Arsenal after his tournament ends, having been linked again with a move to Fenerbahce in search of more regular football.

The Premier League club have bought Bernd Leno for £19m from Bayer Leverkusen and the Germany international will surely compete with Petr Cech to be first choice.

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Japan coach Akira Nishino admits his team haven't practised penalty kicks as a team

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Akira Nishino says his players have not practiced penalties as a team.

Japan have defied expectations to reach the knockout stages of this year’s World Cup, but despite being at the business end of the tournament and with two of the first four last 16 encounters going to penalties, coach Akira Nishino admits his team haven’t practised spot kicks.

Russia and Croatia both progressed to the quarter-finals on Sunday following thrilling and tense climaxes to their contests, with the hosts heroically knocking out 2010 champions Spain and Croatia beating Denmark from 12 yards – Real Madrid pivot Luka Modric scoring in the shootout after he had earlier seen a penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel in the final minutes of extra time.

“We’ve never practised penalty kicks as a team,” Nishino told reporters on Sunday in Russia, the Sankei Shimbun daily said, claiming it was impossible to recreate the pressure players would feel in a real penalty situation.

“I don’t think it is really useful to practise for a penalty shootout. Individual players who wanted to be ready trained on their own, but not as a team.”

After a poor run-up to the tournament, few people expected Japan to get very far, with most predicting they would not make it out of their group.

But despite the team’s success, Nishino has endured stinging criticism for instructing players to run down the clock and settle for a 1-0 defeat against Poland, knowing it was enough to advance – even though they only progressed in place of Senegal because of a better fair play record.

They squeezed into the knockout rounds because they had picked up two fewer yellow cards.

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Dries Mertens wants to score goals to win World Cup with Belgium - and help his friends with free TVs

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TV star: Dries Mertens.

Scoring the goals that help Belgium lift a first-ever World Cup would be a dream for Dries Mertens, but the Belgium forward admits there’s another reason why he wants to help his country find the back of the net – to help his friends get free televisions.

Electronics company Krefel has offered Belgian customers a full refund on a newly bought TV if Roberto Martinez‘s side score 16 goals in Russia.

The Red Devils are halfway there too, as they were top scorers in the group stage with nine, one of which was scored by Napoli flyer Mertens.

“My friends bought a television, so I am thinking about that,” he said.

“With the qualities of Romelu [Lukaku] and Eden [Hazard], we can create a great deal of danger.

“We are doing really well. We like to score a lot of goals.”

Belgium face Japan in the last 16 in Rostov on Monday after a 1-0 win over England meant they finished top of Group G with three successive victories.

Martinez’s men scraped through at this stage of the 2014 World Cup against the United States, winning 2-1 after extra time before losing the quarter-final 1-0 to Argentina.

Mertens was also part of the squad that were dumped out of Euro 2016 two summers ago after they lost 3-1 to Wales in the quarter-finals, having taken the lead through Radja Nainggolan’s stunning long-range effort.

“Yes, we are favourites but watch our last-16 game against the USA in 2014,” said Mertens.

“They had a chance in the last minute which could have eliminated us. And I am not going to talk about the elimination to Wales at Euro 2016.

“But the atmosphere in the team is fantastic and there is the belief that we can win all our matches.”

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