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England v Costa Rica – talking points

All the key issues ahead of Thursday’s World Cup farewell.

England play their final World Cup warm-up when Costa Rica visit Leeds on Thursday night.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at the key issues before the game.

Will Henderson relish his return?

Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson (left) is hoping to bounce back from Champions League woe (Mike Egerton/PA)

Jordan Henderson saw a potentially career-defining night go up in smoke in Kiev when he captained Liverpool to their Champions League defeat by Real Madrid. He was given extra time to holiday with family and was present only as a spectator for the victory over Nigeria at the weekend. The midfielder insists he is ready to get “back to business” for his country but how much did leading his club on such a draining night really take out of his mental reserves?

Pickford or mix?

All signs seem to be pointing toward Everton’s Jordan Pickford wearing the gloves against Tunisia in Volgograd, after he followed 90 minutes at Wembley with the coveted number one jersey in the official squad lists. Logic dictates that with just three caps to his name, he needs another outing before Russia. But manager Gareth Southgate is a big admirer of Jack Butland and could be tempted to offer one last chance to the Stoke man. It would, though, take a major showing to upset the agenda at this stage and England will be hoping Costa Rica do not work their chosen goalkeeper that much.

On the road again

England are back at Elland Road after a 16-year absence, and playing away from Wembley for the first time since their pre-Euro 2016 fixtures took them to the home grounds of Manchester City and Sunderland. With the sale of the national stadium being debated at present – and one of the suggested benefits being more freedom to take the Three Lions away from the capital more frequently – it is a big night in PR terms. A passionate crowd, a different experience and positive reports from players and fans could help promote the idea of a touring England team.

Alexander-Arnold to crash the party?

It is getting late in the day for Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold to make a play for a first-team role in Russia. By the time the full-time whistle blows England’s Group G opener will be just 11 days away and he has yet to play a single minute for his country. But his entire career development has been played out in advanced fast-forward this season, from youth prospect to Champions League finalist in the blink of an eye. He will expect to see some action against Costa Rica and will be eager to steal the limelight.

System check

Gareth Southgate may use the chance to prepare for Panama (Steven Paston/PA)

Despite Southgate’s best denials, it is hard not to see this fixture as a direct warm-up for the group game against Panama. Costa Rica may be be ranked 30 places higher than their fellow Central Americans but how England line up against them – and the kind of football they try to play – will surely offer heavy hints about Southgate’s plans. If there is even a slim chance he will switch his back three to a back four against Panama, or be tempted to pair Jamie Vardy with Harry Kane, this would be the moment to test the water. Eyes peeled for clues.

Press Association


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