England 2-0 Costa Rica: 5 things we learned

A comfortable victory over 2014 World Cup quarter-finalists Costa Rica has left Gareth Southgate with plenty to ponder.

REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

That’s it. England’s preparations are done. 

A stunning goal from Marcus Rashford and Danny Welbeck’s 16th goal in 39 international games sealed a second victory out of two for England, running out comfortable 2-0 winners against a jaded looking Costa Rica at Elland Road.

There was plenty to feel optimistic about ahead of England’s World Cup campaign, with the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Fabian Delph and Marcus Rashford all impressing.

Despite 63% possession, however, England could not convert more of their six efforts on target. Nonetheless, the Three Lions’ performance was underpinned by youthful enthusiasm, energy and long-gone directness, not seen in recent years.

Gareth Southgate and his side will fly out to Russia over the weekend, with decisions still to be made for the Three Lions’ group opener against Tunisia on June 18th.

What would Southgate have learned from this final warm-up match? RealSport take a look.

  1. 1 Marcus Rashford has to be involved in Russia

    REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

    With Southgate making 11 changes from the side that beat Nigeria 2-1 on Saturday, this was the last chance for those on the fringes to stake their claim ahead of the finals. 

    The man that would have caught the manager's eye the most was undoubtedly Marcus Rashford.

    It was no surprise when Glenn Hoddle awarded the official man of the match award to the 20-year-old, after an exciting display oozing with confidence and flair - the antithesis of many of his Manchester United performances this season.

    His extraordinary strike capped off a perfect night for Rashford, and after Raheem Sterling missed two big chances on Saturday, the Manchester City winger could come under increasing pressure for his place in the starting XI.

    Regardless of whether Rashford starts against Tunisia, he has to be involved in some capacity. With that, nobody can argue.

  2. 2 Fabian Delph coming to the fore

    REUTERS/Phil Noble

    The title-winner has gone under the radar since being named in England's 23-man squad, but gave a timely reminder of what he can do at the home of Leeds United, the club that brought him through as a youngster.

    Many have considered Delph to be in the squad as a utility man, but he showed his quality at Elland Road.

    For once, playing in his favoured central midfield role, in which he starred for Aston Villa as captain, Delph was able to keep things ticking over nicely.

    He was assured in possession, consistently offered himself as an option and aggressively pressed opponents, displaying energy and commitment.

    The debate has been over whether it will be Dier or Henderson starting at the base of England's midfield, but perhaps Delph will have given Southgate an extra selection headache ahead of the finals.

  3. 3 Alexander-Arnold is comfortable at this level

    REUTERS/Phil Noble

    It's been a whirlwind year for Trent Alexander-Arnold. 

    He became a Liverpool regular, started the Champions League final, and is now an England international headed to the World Cup. Not bad for a 19-year-old.

    Whilst he sometimes shows vulnerability when isolated one-on-one against a tricky winger, with Kyle Walker likely to be just behind him in the back three, Alexander-Arnold should be sufficiently protected if he were to come against one of the bigger nations in Russia.

    The Liverpool full back offers a buccaneering spirit on the right-hand side. Good going forward, and tenacious in his defensive duties, Alexander-Arnold has to be considered now as a real contender to start over Kieran Trippier.

    The Tottenham man possesses similar weaknesses to Alexander-Arnold, but the youngster offers more dynamism whilst still having quality delivery - especially from set pieces.

  4. 4 Danny Rose is ready for Russia

    REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

    Another former Leeds United player returning to Elland Road, Danny Rose put in a confident, assured performance down the left-hand side. 

    After bravely coming out and speaking about his battle with depression, Rose reminded everyone what a good player he was before his knee injury, and looks ready to put a difficult year at Tottenham behind him.

    Staunchly committed to playing for his country, Rose offers the natural width and dynamism on that side that Ashley Young simply doesn't.

    The greater balance he brings to the team is important in Southgate's fluid 3-5-2, and gradually the Yorkshireman seems to be returning to form.

    Rose admitted that he was perhaps a little fortunate to be in the squad after only playing ten times in the Premier League this season, but his return to prominence could come at just the right time for the Three Lions.

  5. 5 Costa Rica must improve

     REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

    Coach Oscar Ramirez, a veteran of Costa Rica's 1990 World Cup squad, will hope that his side's limp performance resulted from jet lag rather than simply being outclassed.

    The last time these two sides met, a stalemate in Belo Horizonte, was enough to see Los Ticos win the group, as an already eliminated England ambled out of the tournament.

    This time however, the Costa Ricans just couldn't replicate the same organisation and desire as that team of four years ago.

    In fairness, the opening goal was a spectacular effort they couldn't have done much about. Ramirez will be banking on returning stars Christian Bolanos and Bryan Ruiz to transform his attack. The duo could also spur on Joel Campbell, who looked particularly subdued on Thursday night.

    Quarter-finalists last time, Costa Rica will have their work cut out to advance from a tough group containing Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland, especially if they perform like they did at Elland Road. 

Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group C in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.

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Etienne Fermie


Étienne Fermie is a writer for RealSport, specialising in football and tennis.

Having featured in the Guardian and on LoveSport Radio, Étienne also co-founded the 3pm Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @etiennefermie