Former Aston Villa and Colombia forward Juan Pablo Angel says England have not been tested yet at the World Cup.
The 42-year-old, who had 33 caps for the national team between 1995 and 2005 and spent six seasons at Villa from 2001 to 2007, told Sky Sports that England have played well, but Colombia will be a tough opponent in the last-16 clash on Tuesday.
“For the English national team, there has always been a huge amount of pressure to perform in these big tournaments and in the last few years they haven’t been able to live up to the expectations,” he said.
“Having said that, I don’t think the pressure on these players is as much as it was on the so-called ‘golden generation’. Not having and not feeling that pressure I think has helped a lot.
“Gareth (Southgate) has managed to bring a young group of players and in a way they have been performing with a lot of freedom. They have the top scorer of the tournament, they’ve been playing some good football.
“But they haven’t really been with a team that has tested the squad as much as they’d like to.”
England rested many of their first-team players, including captain Harry Kane, in a 1-0 loss to Belgium in their final game of the group stage.
It will have been nine days since most of England’s starters stepped on the pitch when they take the field on Tuesday, but Angel called the ability to rest players and keep them healthy a “luxury”.
“In a short tournament like this, if you have the ability to manage the time and the feel of your players, getting to a stage like this, I think it’s massively important,” he said. “I think it’s a huge advantage.
“Look at the Colombia team. We haven’t been able to do that and we have paid the price. We have two or three injuries so far in the squad because of the physical demands of the game.”
Southgate said himself on Monday he feels like England have “created excitement” with their play, and Angel praised his ability to bring the team together.
“I think it’s a completely different atmosphere within this England team than in the past tournaments,” he said. “I’m not sure if that’s better or worse, it’s just different. It’s a little bit more quiet, there is not much craziness about the squad.
“[Southgate] has been able to protect the team as much as he can and that has allowed the players to perform freely so far.
“Having said that, the more they advance in the tournament the pressure gets higher and higher and they have to react to it.
“He has brought a lot of energy to the team. I don’t know if it’s because of the age of this squad, but they play with a lot of energy.
“They definitely have players that can hurt you on any given day.”