England heads to the World Cup on the heels of a 2-0 win over Costa Rica at Elland Road.
England’s final match before the World Cup ended in victory as Costa Rica were comfortably beaten 2-0 against the backdrop of an excellent atmosphere at Elland Road.
In England’s first match at Leeds’ home ground since 2004, Gareth Southgate gave a debut to Trent Alexander-Arnold, while Jack Butland started in goal ahead of Jordan Pickford. Costa Rica’s starting eleven contained six players who played against England at the 2014 World Cup.
Alexander-Arnold got his debut off to a good start as he whipped in an early cross which Giancarlo Gonzalez miscued for the first corner of the game. Some nice interchange play nearly forced an opening as the home side began positively.
A delightful piece of trickery from Marcus Rashford forced another corner from which Phil Jones tested Keylor Navas, though the second corner was dealt with by the visitors. For the most part, Costa Rica were looking every inch the organized team that reached the World Cup quarterfinals four years ago.
However, there was nothing they could do about the opening goal. Marcus Rashford found himself in acres of space on the edge of the box and unleashed a brilliant dipping strike which Navas could only watch as it flew past him and into the back of the net.
As against Nigeria, England had an early lead on which to build.
England could have doubled their lead when Fabian Delph’s dangerous ball into the box was flicked on by John Stones and Harry Maguire to a more suitable finisher, but Jamie Vardy was quickly closed down by Navas who smothered the shot.
Costa Rica had offered very little so far but Butland was called into action for the first time as Johan Venegas’s effort called for a smart save from the Stoke goalkeeper. England remained in control but Los Ticos held their shape and kept the chance count down.
England won another corner which reached the head of Maguire, but his header came to Ruben Loftus-Cheek too quickly and Costa Rica were able to clear. The Central American side made it to halftime just one goal behind, but the hosts were very much the superior team.
The second half started fairly quietly but the fans came to life when Jordan Henderson powered a well-struck shot goalwards and Navas was forced to push behind. From the resulting corner, Maguire’s goalbound header was cleared off the line by Bryan Oviedo.
England made five substitutions around the hour mark, bringing an end to a solid debut for Alexander-Arnold as he was replaced by Kieran Trippier. Nick Pope was also handed his England debut in place of Butland, and captain Henderson was replaced by Dele Alli.
Trippier bent a free kick around the wall but wide of the mark as England tried to get back into the swing of things following the momentum-breaking subs. A Trippier cross was flicked on by another sub, Danny Welbeck, but Danny Rose miscued his shot off-target.
England finally got the second goal their performance had merited as Alli exchanged passes with Rose before finding the head of Welbeck, who couldn’t miss with the goal gaping.
Ronald Matarrita gave Pope his first save to make, though it was routine for the Burnley stopper. Otherwise it was a comfortable end to the game for England, who were the better side from start to finish.
It was the perfect way to sign off ahead of the important business to come, which begins in Volgograd against Tunisia on Monday week.