England face Costa Rica in the second of their two warmup fixtures before flying to Russia for the 2018 World Cup this summer. It was a case of Jekyll and Hyde for England against Nigeria last time out; thrilling in the first half but dull in the second.
The Three Lions were on the right side of the 2-1 scoreline though and Gareth Southgate will hopefully now have a firm idea on his starting line-up for England’s opening fixture against Tunisia.
Most supporters aren’t expecting much from England this summer but that could work in Southgate’s favour. Expectation and hype is usually huge ahead of a major tournament and the English media have often been criticised for putting too much pressure on the national side.
There has been none of that this summer; Southgate’s side will head to Russia knowing that advancing past the group stages will satisfy most fans whilst a quarter-final spot would constitute a successful tournament.
Southgate May Wring The Changes
Jordan Pickford was solid against Nigeria and that performance should be enough to secure a spot in the starting line-up against Tunisia. On the whole, the Everton man will have been impressed with his night's work.
However, the England manager is likely to hand Jack Butland a start on Thursday night – the Stoke City man will head into the World Cup as England’s substitute goalkeeper.
Harry Maguire and Phil Jones were absent for Saturday’s contest and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see both men start here. A slight tweak in formation may be required but this is the time to try new systems out...
The Leicester City man is a real threat at set-pieces and the 10/1 available for Maguire to score is well worth taking if he starts. Until the pre-match press conference, Southgate will be keeping his cards relatively close to his chest.
Captain Fantastic Kane To Extend Scoring Run
Since receiving the captain’s armband, Harry Kane has scored six goals in five games. Mere coincidence? Possibly. Three Lions fans will be glad to see their star striker scoring goals on a regular basis though – the captain’s armband can be something of a hindrance at times.
At the time of writing, Kane is 4/6 to get his name on the scoresheet on Thursday night and plenty of punters will be snapping that up. Southgate praised the Spurs man for his unselfish nature on Sunday and he looks destined to shine for England at the World Cup this summer.
Without a doubt, he is right in the mix to compete for the Golden Boot if the Three Lions are able to take full advantage of fixtures against Tunisia and Panama.
Write Costa Rica Off At Your Peril
Cast your minds back to the 2014 World Cup. England were held to a goalless draw by Costa Rica and another tight contest looks likely here. A goalless first half is currently available at 47/20 and that carries plenty of appeal.
Interestingly, Oscar Ramirez’s men have faced both Panama and Tunisia – England’s Group G rivals – in recent months and fans will be keeping a close eye on how the Three Lions fare in comparison.
ANOTHER Low-Scoring Affair?
England have scored just 25 goals in 17 matches under Southgate and 13/25 for under 2.5 home goals represents solid value. The Three Lions will be looking to keep things tight here and an England clean sheet may be the main priority.
Gary Cahill, scorer of England’s first goal on Saturday night, is the fifth highest scorer in this World Cup squad – that statistic tells its own story. Look no further than the under 2.5 match goals at 11/10.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*