Prediction: England to win to nil
England round off their preparations for the World Cup as they take on Costa Rica at Elland Road on Thursday evening.
Gareth Southgate’s men take on the Central American minnows for the first time since their 0-0 draw at the 2014 World Cup as focus switches to this summer’s showpiece tournament.
The Three Lions head into their final friendly before departing for Russia in excellent form. Southgate’s troops have not lost a match in just under a whole calendar year. Their last defeat came in the form of a 3-2 friendly defeat to France in June 2017. In the time since, they have battled with the likes of Germany, Brazil, Netherlands and Italy – earning three credible draws and a victory against the Dutch in the process. England were also given a stern test last time out as they clashed with a talented Nigeria outfit at Wembley Stadium. Goals from Gary Cahill and Harry Kane secured a 2-1 victory.
Since Southgate has taken control of the team, it is clear that their defensive solidarity has improved. In his 17 games as England boss, the Three Lions have kept ten clean sheets – a statistic that they will hope to add to against the more unfancied Costa Rica and surely in the World Cup.
There could well be a much-changed England line-up to the one seen against Nigeria. Jamie Vardy is expected to lead the line, whilst Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold could potentially be included after joining up with the squad following their extended break. Nick Pope could be given his international debut also. Elsewhere, Harry Maguire appears to have recovered from a slight knock so could feature.
Elsewhere, Óscar Ramírez’s troops got their preparations for the World Cup off to the best possible start last time. Taking on Northern Ireland, Los Ticos earned an excellent 3-0 win thanks to goals from Johan Venegas, Joel Campbell and Francisco Calvo. The victory on home soil brings to an end a relatively tricky run for the Costa Ricans as they begin to focus on the World Cup. Prior to the match, the team had only won two out of their last nine games. Included in that run was hard-to-take defeats to the likes of Hungary and Panama. As a matter of fact, they had also failed to score in three out of their four games before the clash with Northern Ireland – an aspect that they will surely be looking to improve upon in Russia.
Despite that, they are now in a great position to claim consecutive wins for the first time since July 2017. The last time Costa Rica did that was in the CONCACAF Gold Cup with wins over Panama and French Guyana. It is surely set to be an even bigger test against England in Yorkshire, though.
The man to look out for is surely Arsenal forward, Joel Campbell. The poster boy of Costa Rican football, the 25-year-old enjoyed a fantastic time at the 2014 World Cup. In 75 appearances for his country, he has had a hand in 26 goals, including a goal and an assist against Northern Ireland. In regards to injuries, Ramírez has a full squad to choose from.
Key Facts To Consider
- England and Costa Rica have only ever met once, producing a 0-0 draw in 2014
- Only Gary Cahill remains in the England squad from that game in the 2014 World Cup
- Harry Kane has scored eight goals in his last seven games for the Three Lions
- England have never lost to a Central American country
- Both sides earned a victory in their first World Cup warm-up game
England should have more than enough to overwhelm the Central American minnows in Yorkshire, even with a second-string side. The offensive options available to Southgate are plentiful, especially Jamie Vardy whose pace and industrious style of play should see him trouble the Costa Ricans. England should also be more than good enough to keep a clean sheet in their final match before the World Cup.
Prediction: England to win to nil
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