Jamie Vardy looks increasingly likely to miss England‘s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden, with Gareth Southgate needing to closely 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 a second-ever penalty shoot-out 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*”
Vardy, who came 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 today, so is looking doubtful for this game,” Southgate said.
“But we’ll know a bit more tomorrow, 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 today to see whether they’re OK.
“So we’ll know more tomorrow. 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 today.
“But equally there might be a couple of others, who 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 tomorrow 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 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.”
The Manchester City right-back, who played 90 minutes in his side’s opening game against Switzerland, sprained ligaments in his left ankle in training on Thursday.
Danilo will not recover in time to feature for Brazil, who face Belgium in Friday’s quarter-final, again in Russia, but he will remain with the squad as they aim to secure a sixth World Cup.
A statement published on Brazil’s official website read: “Right-back Danilo suffered a ligament injury in his left ankle after sprains in training this Thursday in Kazan.
“Accompanied by the doctor of the Brazilian national team, Rodrigo Lasmar, the player performed image tests that confirmed the injury and he does not have sufficient time of recovery in the period of dispute of the World Cup.
“In conversation with the technical committee, Danilo requested and will remain with the cast, having begun treatment with the medical department of the national team.”
In an interview with Venezuelan television channel Telesur, the 57-year-old Argentine described the result as a “monumental robbery” and blamed the chairman of FIFA’s referees committee, Pierluigi Collina, for giving the game to American referee Mark Geiger.
Maradona, who is understood to receive 10,000 US dollars a game from FIFA as part of its ‘Legends’ ambassador programme, said Collina should “apologise to the Colombian people” because Geiger “knows a lot about baseball but has no idea about football”.
The 1986 World Cup-winning captain accused England’s players of conning Geiger and said the referee should have reviewed, and then overturned, his decision to award Harry Kane a second-half penalty.
Maradona, who was photographed in a Colombia shirt before the game, added: “I screamed at Colombia’s equaliser as though I had been the one to head that ball because it’s not possible – you have to denounce this.
“As the captain of legends, I have to tell (FIFA president Gianni) Infantino this cannot be left like this. This is a fatal mistake for a whole country.”
That conversation with Infantino, however, might not be needed, as FIFA has responded to his rant.
In a statement, it said: “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.
“Furthermore, it also considers the additional comments and insinuations made as being entirely inappropriate and completely unfounded.
“At a time when FIFA is doing everything within its power to ensure principles of fair play, integrity and respect are at the forefront of this World Cup and how the organisation is now run, FIFA is extremely sorry to read such declarations from a player who has written the history of our game.”
To Maradona— Paul Gascoigne (@PG8Testimonial) July 4, 2018
Happy Wednesday !
Love Gazza xxxx
P.s Get you money on England to win the World Cup.... Footballs Coming Home ! pic.twitter.com/DkPQODmZPD
Maradona has been by far the most high-profile and contentious of the numerous FIFA Legends at Russia 2018.
At one game he was spotted breaking stadium no-smoking laws with a lit cigar and making slant-eyed gestures towards some South Korean fans. At another he made offensive gestures to Nigerian fans after an Argentina goal and later had to be given treatment after an apparent collapse.
There have also been several pictures and videos of him very clearly enjoying a drink or two.
It should also be noted that Maradona does not speak for all FIFA’s legends.
Former German captain Lothar Matthaus and Brazilian great Ronaldo were at the launch of FIFA’s annual player awards in Moscow on Wednesday and Matthaus said he thought the referee should have been much stricter with Colombia’s arguing and diving. He also thought England were worthy winners.
Diego Maradona calls England's victory vs Colombia a "monumental robbery" and blames the referees. pic.twitter.com/oP6T6dvDiw— FIFA World Cup (@WorIdCupUpdates) July 4, 2018
While Ronaldo, when asked by a reporter what he thought of Colombia’s complaints, said: “How long have you been reporting on football?”
To which the response was “17 years”.
“Well, you will know then that the loser always moans,” replied Ronaldo.