Football: World Cup - Brown wants England to be wide boys

Width and power in the air are the keys to crushing Colombia, says the Scotland coach. By Phil Shaw
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The Independent Online
CRAIG BROWN, the Scotland coach, is backing England to beat Colombia tonight and claim the second-round place which eluded his own team - provided they exploit their aerial power and the width of the pitch.

On returning from the United States last month, after Scotland drew 2-2 with Colombia in a friendly, Brown was convinced England would be too strong for the South Americans. The evidence provided by Group G, in which both teams have beaten Tunisia but lost to Romania, has done nothing to change his mind.

"I don't think Colombia are the force they were even four years ago," said Brown, who will be in Marseilles for tomorrow's game between Italy and Norway as a radio summariser. "They have some good individuals but I don't expect them to cause England too many problems. We were very disappointed not to have beaten them.

"They play a very distinctive system which is basically 1-3-2-2-2 with no width to speak of. If England pick [Steve] McManaman against them they could well steamroller them. We went out determined to use the flanks and did it very successfully.

"Width and heading power are the keys for England. Colombia aren't the biggest of teams - there's only really [Freddy] Rincon, [Jorge] Bermudez and [Harold] Lozano who you would call tall. So they could struggle at set pieces against Alan Shearer and Tony Adams.

"A lot of their play is very much off the cuff. It's hard to see a real structure there, or much evidence that things have been worked on. For instance, I expected their coach [Hernan] Dario Gomez to change things around in the second half in New York to stop us getting by them on the wings, but he didn't."

Carlos Valderrama remains Colombia's most not-able performer, although as much for his incandescent Afro as for his influence as a playmaker. "I don't want to knock him but I'll put it this way," Brown said. "A few years ago we would have man-marked him tightly. I wouldn't do it now because it would be a waste of a player.

"He's still the linchpin, he can hit a sweet pass and he's always clever at free kicks and corners. But we usually pick out the chief in the other team and try to negate him. I don't see Valderrama in those terms any more. He's nearly 37 and the level he's playing at [Major League Soccer in the US] may not be conducive to competing with the best."

Brown believes that the departure of Faustino Asprilla should also help England. The Scots found that one moment the former Newcastle player was "like a rag doll, with his arms all floppy as if he was sulking." The next he would "explode into life". He regards their firepower as diminished, but warns that they remain adept counter-attackers.

Of Colombia's old guard, Brown sees Rincon as "still a very good player" in midfield. Among the newer faces introduced since their disastrous appearance at the 1994 finals, he has been impressed by Bermudez, who now fills the late Andres Escobar's position at the back.

"He's a big, strong player who is dangerous at set pieces - either taking them, if Valderrama will let him near the ball, or trying to get on the end of them," said Brown. "Nobody will handle Shearer at his best, but Bermudez and a couple of his fellow defenders are tough customers."