in the team.
In the last warm up game for England before the World Cup starts next week, only Marcus Rashford really put his hand up and said to Southgate “pick me”… but will he.
For the final game before it matters, against Costa Rica, Southgate made 10 changes from the starting XI that played at the weekend against Nigeria. The understudies given one last chance to take a starting spot when the World Cup starts for England against Tunisia a week on Monday.
Did any of them take that chance, bar Marcus Rashford, and even if they did, does it matter or has Southgate gone with his favourites?
You have the feeling no matter what Rashford did in the game Southgate will go with Sterling, even though Sterling got in the way and just butchered good chances but not being able to pick the final pass, while Rashford created and linked up well with others. One a team player, the other a selfish one.
I mean how many chances did Sterling have against Nigeria, handful, half a dozen. Goals scored zero. Well after a quarter of an hour against Costa Rica, Rashford had no real clear cut chances but one goal to his name. He also linked up well for the second goal.
His strike partner, Vardy, yet again found out that this England can’t or won’t play to him. A couple of long balls were attempted over the top but they fell short of playing him through. With Southgate’s wish for England to fanny about at the back, it’s just not gonna work for Vardy.
While Loftus-Cheek was tidy in the middle of the park, apparently a 100% passing rate, he didn’t do much wrong but he didn’t do much either. A few nice passages but didn’t exactly run the game you’d think someone in that position could do against a poor side like this Costa Rica. A bit different from the side that topped England’s group at the last World Cup, though probably a good indicator of how things will pan out for England’s second group game, against Panama.
Loftus-Cheek’s best moment was probably leaving to visiting players on the ground after they tried to foul him, though bizarrely he was penalised for this.
Rose had a chance, I mean he’s only up against Ashley Young for the left-back spot and while Young is useless, Rose didn’t exactly make it a done deal to be picked. Maybe he’s hoping that “I’ve got to be playing or I’ll be depressed” routine worked on Southgate.
On the other side the kid was again tidy but did he do enough to oust Trippier. Probably not. In defence you don’t want Jones playing, he might not have done anything majorly awful in this game but that means he’s doubly likely to do it in his next. Maguire will probably feature but there was times when he needed to kick the ball with his left foot a bit more.
Henderson was trying the Gerrard glory balls. That is over hitting every pass forward. What little forward he was doing. It was a t times yet another tribute to Ray Wilkins with the sideways and back passes.
In goal you really don’t have any qualms about who he picks. Pope probably had the best season of the three. Pickford has had a lot to do over the last couple of years while on the night Butland really only had two saves to make. All the media will tell you it was just one but the second wasn’t from a great shot, it just took a deflection off an England player and it wrong footed Butland for a second. While Glenn Hoddle was claiming it was an easy save the expression on Butland’s face was telling the real story.
While many were happy about the game it yet again highlighted so many faults. Not being able to break down teams, not being able to play to Vardy, and yet again not being present in the second half.
What does Southgate do at half-time. Give ’em all a cup of cocoa topped up with GHB?
Another lethargic second half which he stuck Dele on. Bit of a hospital pass this one. The team aren’t at it and so it looks bad for the new guy when he can’t get into the game. Almost as if Southgate was trying to find a way not to pick him. Shame he had a hand in the second goal, curling the ball onto Welbeck’s head, which the latter did his best to bugger up.
Does any of it really matter, will Southgate pick the best side and will they be back before the postcards even if he does…
One bonus was paying away from Wembley. The atmosphere at Elland Road was more than a match for the London ground with more than twice its capacity.