England V Costa Rica Preview : 2014 revenge is on England's mind...
Event Venue: Elland Road, Kick off: 20:00. Live on ITV1.See Stats
On the road to Russia, England have a couple of warm-ups on the way. Nigeria are first up - meant to prepare the Three Lions for Tunisia - and Costa Rica are up second in a bid to help Gareth Southgate's men get ready for the prospect of Panama. However, the Costa Rica game means a little bit more; the Central American side drew with England at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil 0-0 and in the process, sent England packing and went through top of their group against all the odds. The Three Lions should have revenge on their mind but also one eye on the task at hand. Will they play this game to combat Costa Rica or, will they set up to bombard Panama? Because that's what England will need to do in the group stages in a bid to earn maximum points before the inevitable showdown with Belgium on the last day of the groups. However, Costa Rica are no pushovers and with talents like Joel Campbell, they can really hurt England if the Three Lions play too open. In fact, the last time these two sides met, England struggled to make any clear-cut chances and really take command of the game and certainly didn't show their stature on the day. Can they this time around? gareth Southgate's men are playing with renewed vigour, but what's changed?
Odds of 11/2 are available with Paddy Power for a draw (18+ t&c's apply)
Gareth Southagte has brought a new energy to England since he became the manager. While the Three Lions have stagnated and 'just done enough' under the likes of Roy Hodgson and Fabio Capello, the former Under-21 boss has looked for ways to reinvent England and get them playing with a style more in keeping with how the modern game has progressed. Inevitably, that requires energy, pace and power, something that England is actually blessed with in abundance. Take a look at Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy and Kyle Walker; all four men are four of the fastest athletes in world football in their respective positions. However, the subtle move to 3-5-2 - something Chelsea and Arsenal did last season - has seen England use their best qualities. For starters, moving Kyle Walker into the right side of the back three has helped has given England an athleticism they were lacking in the backline and complimenting him with John Stones and Harry Maguire ticks all boxes. Although Walker would have been a great candidate for the right wing-back role, Kieran Trippier - who had eight assists in the Premier League last season - looks perfect for that role. Danny Rose is a fine option to play on the opposite flank and he has all the aforementioned attributes a modern day player needs to play that role. Playing this system also allows England to deploy a number 10 and with Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard excellent in that role, it plays to England's strengths.
Get odds of 1/3 with Betfair for England to win (18+ t&c's apply)
Costa Rica shocked the world at the 2014 World Cup. Yes, they were more suited to the Brazilian climate than either Italy or England, but still, when faced against three former world champions, Costa Rica topped the group. They went on to beat Greece in the knockout stages before losing to Holland on penalties in the quarter-finals. While they exceeded their wildest expectations, they got to the Gold Cup semi-finals last year and seem to be riding a wave of serious momentum. Their star man is exiled Arsenal winger Joel Campbell and his trickry and pace is the outlet and class they need when hitting teams on the counter. Without Campbell's unpredictable attacking, they lose the edge that makes them so special. However, the skill and composure of former Fulham man Bryan Ruiz is what really connects the dots for Costa Rica and the captain has been a mainstay for his country for 13 years totalling 101 caps. The best thing about Costa Rica is their contiunity; they could easily field eight of the same players that faced England four years ago. They qualified for the World Cup in Russia with two games to spare and many of you might recognise their goalkeeper Keylor Navas, the Real Madrid stopper that has won three Champions League titles in the last four years.
Paddy Power are offering odds of 10/1 for Costa Rica to win (18+ t&c's apply)
What they're saying
Gareth Southgate confirmed his England squad for Russia on Wednesday afternoon and he has chosen to persist with the 23 men he originally picked despite some big names, like Adam Lallana, on the standby list. However, including players like Marcus Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ruben Loftus -Cheek gives England reason to be excited, Southgate believes: “I believe this is a squad which we can be excited about,” said Southgate. “We have a lot of energy and athleticism in the team, but players that are equally comfortable in possession of the ball and I think people can see the style of play we’ve been looking to develop. It is a young group, but with some really important senior players so I feel the balance of the squad is good, both in terms of its experience, its character and also the positional balance. The selection process has been over months really, it’s not just been the last few weeks." Southgate also feels that these call-ups make the world of sense in light of their form and indeed, the injuries England have suffered. “We feel the team are improving and we want to continue that momentum. The first call up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, it’s not just because they are young, it’s because their performances deserve it. We’ve also had a couple of injuries with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez, which is a huge blow for them personally and disappointing for us.”
Elsewhere, Raheem Sterling has been making the headlines after the England winger was spotted with a gun tattoo on his leg, something that he has had for a number of weeks and has been clear since before the end of the Premier League season. Lucy Cope, who founded the group Mothers Against Guns after he son Damian was shot dead in 2002 said: "We demand he has the tattoo lasered off or covered up with a different tattoo. If he refuses he should be dropped from the England team. He's supposed to be a role model but chooses to glamorise guns." It's quite outrageous Cope would 'demand' Sterling do anything, especially given Sterling's reasoning behind the body art. Sterling wrote on Instagram: In a later post, he wrote: "When I was two my father died from being gunned down to death. I made a promise to myself I would never touch a gun in my lifetime. I shoot with my right foot so it has a deeper meaning." The FA went on to support Sterling, saying: An FA spokesperson said: "We all support Sterling and acknowledge the honest and heartfelt account he gave." The statement added: "He and the rest of the squad are focused solely on preparing for the forthcoming World Cup."
Coral are offering adds of 11/8 for both teams to score (18+ t&c's apply)
England have some wrongs to right against Costa Rica, but the bottom line is, this is a different England side. The one that lost drew a blank with Costa Rica had Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard playing their last-ever England games, Ben Foster, Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley, Jack Wilshere and Wayne Rooney, all of whom won't be in Russia. England are a new, energetic side now and should, therefore, approach games differently. The pressure is also different; England aren't the top, top side they were once billed as and aren't expected to walk over teams. Fans expectations have finally caught up with the team's output and that puts England in a nice position considering the crop of talent that are coming through. Costa Rica normally play with a nice tempo and are comfortable on the ball, but England have the pace to hurt them when they move forward. England should win this game, but both teams are likely to score in this one.
- England drew 0-0 with Costa Rica back in 2014
- Costa Rica won England's World Cup group in 2014
- Costa Rica qualified for the World Cup in Russia with two games to spare
- England qualified for the World Cup without losing a game
- Bryan Ruiz has 101 caps for Costa Rica, England's most-capped player is Gary Cahill with 58
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