TheFA.com’s Nicholas Veevers blogs as the squad prepare to leave Cartagena.
With England’s progression to the round of 16 in the FIFA U20 World Cup here in Colombia, the group are now preparing to depart Cartagena and head back into the Andes and the city of Armenia where we will face either Nigeria or Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
Following the draw with Mexico on Thursday, we had to wait just 24 hours before our place in the knock-out stages was confirmed, courtesy of Portugal’s 1-0 win over New Zealand. That result meant that England were guaranteed to be amongst the four best third placed teams from the six groups and so secured a passage to the second round.
The game between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia takes place in Pereira on Saturday evening and anything other than a win for the Saudis means we will be facing the African nation on Wednesday evening.
It has worked out quite nicely since the Mexico game, with Friday and Saturday both being used to allow the players some rest and down-time after what has been a gruelling week of three games and travelling on top of the intensive work done over ten days in Colorado prior to arriving in South America.
So Friday saw the squad have a light recovery session in the hotel’s swimming pool here before they spent time relaxing in the afternoon and then headed out for a meal in Cartagena’s old town in the evening before taking in a stroll around the liveliest part of this coastal city.
The group is also now lighter by two people, as both physio Gary Lewin and Head Of Elite Development Gareth Southgate left on Friday. Lewin is off to link-up with the Senior squad for their game with Holland next week with Grant Downie now taking on full physio duties here, whilst Southgate was only here for the group games in any case and spoke to FATV about his time in South America before departing.
With the heat and humidity of the Caribbean, the squad couldn’t train until late-afternoon so Saturday morning saw most of the players take the chance to visit to a local shopping mall, whilst myself, Mike Baker (Video Analyst), Craig Boyd (Fitness Coach), Keith Mincher (Performance Analyst), Stuart Pearce (Assistant Coach) and Dave ‘Daisy’ Lee (Kit Manager) took the opportunity to visit the impressive Castillo San Felipe De Barajas fort which overlooks Cartagena and out to sea.
Built by the Spanish during the colonial era of circa 1530, it dominates the city from both land and sea and is now a World Heritage Site with its maze of tunnels and cannons which were used to repel attackers during the time of its use.
All thoughts aren’t far from the next game though, and packing has already begun for the trip to Armenia with the squad flying on Sunday morning before a coach transfer to the city which stands at 1500 metres above sea level and then straight into training.
After spending the first part of the World Cup trip at similar altitude in Medellin, it shouldn’t take too much acclimatisation for the players and the climate will certainly be better to handle than that of Cartagena.
It’s been a short but sweet stay here, but everyone is now quickly re-focusing on the challenges of the next few days.
You can follow how things go right here on TheFA.com and FATV, with more video interviews and features to come over the campaign, so keep your eyes peeled.
For more instant updates of what’s going on here, follow @thefadotcom on Twitter or even myself on @NVivas79
Until next time,