Argentina and Spain have joined Germany in packing their bags, and now World Cup 2018 is wide open.
It would be foolish to get too carried away – we have been in this position before, but there is every chance that a largely unfancied side from the bottom half of the draw will reach the final of this tournament on July 15.
Russia, Croatia, Sweden, Switzerland, Colombia and England will all fancy their chances of breaking through the comfy side of the bracket.
For the Three Lions, we have to readily admit that this is their best chance of winning a World Cup in years, and while that is easier said than done normally they would be bumping into first-class competition sooner rather than later.
First up are Colombia on Tuesday evening in Moscow, a capital collision worthy of the billing. England are favourites with the bookmakers, but will they prove it in their performance?
Kane Hoping to Gain Advantage Over Clubmate
There will be fascinating clashes all over the pitch when the two teams meet, but one that could have the most bearing on the outcome of this contest could be an all-Tottenham battle between Harry Kane and Davinson Sanchez.
Kane’s power and movement inside the final third has given plenty of world-class defenders problems in recent years, and we certainly wouldn’t be putting Sanchez in that category – yet.
He and defensive partner Yerry Mina are young and inexperienced at this level, and that could show against one of the most in-form strikers on the planet.
Can England get service to their frontman? You would think so, although the Colombians will do their best to shut down the middle of the pitch.
It’s in wide areas where the Three Lions should thrive, with Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young surely having the better of their opposite numbers Johan Mojica and Santiago Arias.
Available at 6/5 to score anytime, Kane should have the run on his Colombian markers, and as long as the supply line is good the Spurs man could fire his side to victory.
Quintero Hoping to Inspire in James’ Absence
The prognosis regarding James Rodriguez is not good, at least from the perspective of the Colombian fans.
The talisman picked up a calf injury against Senegal last time out, and now he faces an anxious wait to see if he will be fit enough to take to the field against the Three Lions.
If he’s not, it’s a huge loss to Colombia’s chances of upsetting the bookmakers’ odds. He is the artist behind their best moves, and while Juan Quintero is enjoying a fine tournament he simply doesn’t have the creative command of the former Golden Boot winner.
Before placing your bets on this game, wait and see if the Real Madrid man has recovered suitably to pull on a yellow shirt on Tuesday.
We can almost forget Colombia’s defeat to Japan – they were reduced to ten men after three minutes, after all – and since then they have won both games played without conceding a goal.
But they haven’t played an outfit quite as skilled as England yet, and the frailties that the Colombians have in the full back areas come be exposed by Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard pulling into wide areas.
How will England line up in midfield? There will be a temptation on the part of Gareth Southgate to pick Eric Dier alongside Jordan Henderson, and that will be primarily to minimise the space afforded to Quintero and co.
England are still a worthy favourite to triumph though, even if their matches so far against Tunisia, Panama and Belgium’s reserves reveal very little.
Colombia are weak in defensive areas, even despite their clean sheets of late, and it will take a side with England’s attacking class to make that show.
As such, we’re delighted to see them available at 23/20 to take the spoils here.