Final stop for Southgate on road to Russia | England v Costa Rica | Preview and Odds

England’s final stop before Russia is Leeds – as they take on Costa Rica at Elland Road on Thursday.

Gareth Southgate’s men came out 2-1 winners over Nigeria at Wembley on Saturday, and face their final assignment before heading to the World Cup.

Costa Rica are no pushovers though, and will be heading to Russia as well, where they’ll hope to repeat their heroics in reaching the quarter-finals four years ago.

We have looked at the best football betting odds for Thursday’s warm-up game.

Final line-up in sight

It was certainly a case of job well done for Southgate and his men against Nigeria on Saturday – a professional performance and a morale boosting win.

If England are to do well this summer, they’ll need to sweep aside some of the lesser teams without too much fuss, which was exactly what happened against the Super Eagles. We can worry about the bigger boys later on.

It’ll be more of the same against a Costa Rica side that are handy – but the Three Lions should expect to beat fairly comfortably.

How they fare in this one could give an indication of how far Southgate’s men will go.

With a relatively straightforward pair of opening games against Tunisia and Panama, the England boss will be keen to create a forward-thinking side who can unpick defences against the weaker sides – rather than the one-size-fits-all approach that has been the Three Lions’ downfall at the last few tournaments.

The Nigeria win, while perhaps unspectacular, showed Southgate has managed to successfully fit each of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling into the team behind Harry Kane – expect all three to feature here as the boss tries to fine-tune the tricky balance between attack and defence.

If those three are to start in the opening game, the only real questions remain the identities of the wing-backs, and whether it will be Jordan Henderson or Eric Dier in the deeper midfield role.

Expect Danny Rose, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Henderson to all feature as they attempt to impress.

England haven’t played at Elland Road since 2002 – and have never tasted victory in two attempts at Leeds United’s ground.

They are 1/3 with to pick up the win here.

Familiar faces return to these shores

Costa Rica may not have the most instantly recognisable squad – but in Bryan Oviedo (Everton and Sunderland), Joel Campbell (Arsenal) and captain Bryan Ruiz (Fulham), they have a few players who have plied their trade in England.

Keeper Keylor Navas has been in goal as Real Madrid have won the last three Champions League trophies – and having made it as far as the quarter-finals in Brazil, they will hope to make a similar impact this time around.

They aren’t in the best of form, however, with Scotland and Northern Ireland the only teams they have beaten in their last six.

The Central American side have a tough group, up against Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland – though will hope to beat one of the two European sides to second place.

Costa Rica are 15/2 to cause an upset in this one.

England to set off for Russia with victory

In truth, I can’t see that happening. England’s preparation for this World Cup looks good – and having avoided friendly defeats against Brazil, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands in the past year, I don’t see them slipping up against Costa Rica.

Southgate will stress the importance of a good performance and result to ensure his side set off for Russia with plenty of confidence, and I’m sure we’ll see it.

Before putting three past Northern Ireland on Sunday, Los Ticos had only scored once in their last five games – and could struggle to find the net against a defensively well organised Three Lions.

I suggest backing England to win to nil at 11/10.

The Three Lions looked dangerous throughout from set pieces against Nigeria, and after Gary Cahill opened the scoring then, I can see another defender playing a part.

Harry Maguire scored twice for Leicester this term, and is always an aerial threat – and I think the 20/1 for him to score first could be a shrewd selection.




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