Gareth Southgate’s England side produced something of a Jekyll and Hyde performance against Nigeria on Saturday in securing their 2-1 victory over the African side. In the first half, the Three Lions played with pace and vigour and fully deserved their 2-0 half time lead.

However, in the second half after the Super Eagles had made a couple of tactical changes to their team, Southgate’s men struggled and after conceding a goal early in the second half, they struggled to impose themselves on the game as Nigeria came back into the match strongly.

The task facing England in the World Cup opening match against Tunisia may be assumed by many to be something of a relatively easy start, but given Tunisia’s recent results, which includes creditable draws away to Portugal and on neutral ground in Switzerland against Turkey on Friday night, not to mention a 1-0 win over Costa Rica, and England’s task looks difficult.

Especially when you consider that Tunisia are ranked 14th in the world, while England are ranked just one place above them in13th. Nigeria in comparison are ranked 47th in the FIFA World Rankings.

It is also worth noting that Tunisia have not lost a game since January 2017, when they were defeated by Burkina Faso in the African Cup of Nations quarterfinal.

It all means that the pressure is now on Gareth Southgate to ensure his England team get off to a strong start in Russia on Monday 18th June. The bad news for the England manager is that other than training sessions, he has just one more friendly game within which to get his team ready for the big kick off.

That game is against Costa Rica and it will be played at Elland Road Leeds on Thursday night.

England v Costa Rica – Preview and Tips

  • England Data File

Manager – Gareth Southgate

Form (past 10 games – most recent first)

  • England 2-1 Nigeria
  • England 1-1 Italy
  • Netherlands 0-1 England
  • England 0-0 Brazil
  • England 0-0 Germany
  • Lithuania 0-1 England
  • England 1-0 Slovenia
  • England 2-1 Slovakia
  • Malta 0-4 England
  • France 3-2 England

Played 10 – Won 6, Drew 3, Lost 1. For – 14, Against – 6

How they qualified for World Cup – Winner of European Group F


Goalkeepers – Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland, Nick Pope

Defenders – Kieran Trippier, Ashley Young, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Gary Cahill, Danny Rose, Harry Maguier, Fabian Delph, Phil Jones, Trent Alexander-Arnold

Midfielders – Jesse Lingard, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jordan Henderson

Attackers – Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford, Danny Welbeck

Team News – England will likely give Liverpool duo Alexander-Arnold and Henderson game time on Thursday after they sat out the game with Nigeria at the weekend. I would not be surprised also to see Nick Pope earn his first cap at some point, if only to give him a taste of international action. Having started with close to a full-strength team for the Nigeria game, Southgate may rotate a few players to rest legs and give others in the squad a chance against Costa Rica, although I expect the manager to stick with his 3-5-2 wingback formation.

  • Costa Rica Data File

Manager – Oscar Ramirez

Form (past 10 games – most recent first)

  • Costa Rica 3-0 Northern Ireland
  • Tunisia 1-0 Costa Rica
  • Scotland 0-1 Costa Rica
  • Hungary 1-0 Costa Rica
  • Spain 5-0 Costa Rica
  • Panama 2-1 Costa Rica
  • Costa Rica 1-1 Honduras
  • Costa Rica 1-1 Mexico
  • United States 0-2 Costa Rica
  • Costa Rica 0-2 United States

Played 10 – Won 3, Drew 2, Lost 5. For – 9, Against – 13

How they qualified for World Cup – Runner Up of CONCACAF Qualifying Table behind Mexico


Goalkeepers – Keylor Navas, Patrick Pemberton, Leonel Moreira

Defenders – Johnny Acosta, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Ian Smith, Oscar Duarte, Bryan Oviedo, Francisco Calvo, Cristian Gamboa, Kendall Waston, Ronald Matarrita

Midfielders – Celso Borges, Christian Bolanos, Daniel Colindres, Rodney Wallace, Randall Azofeifa, Yeltsin Tejeda, David Guzman

Attackers – Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruiz, Johan Venegas, Marco Urena

Team News – Costa Rica surprised many teams with their performance at the 2014 World Cup Finals, where they reached the quarterfinals. They can call upon many members of that successful team this time around too, with many experienced players in their squad. Familiar faces for English fans include Keylor Navas of Real Madrid, Bryan Oviedo of Sunderland, ex Fulham star Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell of Arsenal, though he has spent most of his career with the Gunners out on loan at other clubs.

England v Costa Rica Tips

With the game being played at Elland Road, rather than Wembley, it should make for a more partisan atmosphere for the English players to play in and that may well benefit them. The last time England played around the country, while Wembley was being refurbished, they produced some excellent results and Southgate will want his England team to head off to the World Cup with a win and with a workout against a side that should echo the style in which second group opponents Panama will play.

Match Result Tip

England are a ridiculously short price considering they are playing a team that has beaten both Scotland and Northern Ireland recently, without conceding a goal, and who also held England 0-0 in the World Cup Group Stage back in 2014. With the bookmakers offering just 4/11 on an England win, I can’t back that particular bet here.

However, as England showed some defensive frailties against Nigeria, I think Costa Rica may well find the net here and I think that makes the England to win and both teams to score bet the stronger option. You can back that option at much better odds of 23/10 with Coral Sport.

Anytime Goalscorer Tip

Gary Cahill and Harry Kane found the net for England on Saturday against Nigeria but I would be surprised if both these players were to play the full 90-minutes, even if they start, against Costa Rica. My money here is on Gareth Southgate shuffling his squad a little to give other players some game time and to also look at different options across the team. As such, I think the best bet here for the anytime goalscorer market could well be Raheem Sterling, who looked sharp against Nigeria and who is certainly long overdue an international goal. He is priced at 23/20 with Coral Sport.