The guys final tune up before the World Cup begins June 14th England defeats Costa Rica 2-0.
The Daily Mail:” Elland Road no longer has its diamond lights, but fortunately England do.
Marcus Rashford illuminated England’s final public performance before departing for Russia next week, with a display that suggests he could make an impact at his first World Cup, even if he does not win a place in Gareth Southgate’s starting line-up.
England’s manager wasn’t looking for any great breakthroughs against Costa Rica, he almost certainly knows his starting line-up by now, but Rashford provided a reminder of the strength in depth, certainly in England’s forward line.
He scored a lovely goal, played a smart, neat pass in the build-up to England’s second, and delivered an energetic, bold 90 minutes, showing he was a serious contender for any of four forward positions in the event of injury – or certainly could be first off the bench if England seek to unlock a resilient defence.
This was Rashford’s night, one of those games when everyone wanted to play with him, certainly in the first-half when he was quite outstanding, albeit against limited opposition.
He was involved as players are when colleagues spot they have the wind behind them. Team-mates sought him out, even if there were easier options on. They could see he was buzzing, see he was the best player, that he was having a match that might just change the mind of his manager, and the pecking order in this squad.
They wanted to be a part of it, wanted to help him along, as mates do. Jordan Henderson fizzed forward passes his way, Fabian Delph and Danny Rose attempted clever one-twos to set him up.
Even when these did not come off, Rashford somehow made it work. Delph stuck one in to Rose, which he miscontrolled – but Rashford spared his embarrassment, scrambling to the touchline, keeping the ball in. This was his night, and everyone inside Elland Road knew that.
His name drew a smattering of boos when first read out. A Manchester United man, you see. By half-time he might as well have been one of their own. It wouldn’t do to bear a grudge, faced with a young man alight like this.
They don’t see talent like Rashford’s around these parts anymore, sadly. The days when Leeds produced England forwards have, for the moment, gone. So this was a thrill for them, as well as for him. One of the virtues of taking England around the country, particularly to grounds that do not see Premier League football, is the lighting of candles in the darkness. There were a lot of young faces here. They will remember seeing Rashford play – and score.
Usually, we question why players do not perform for England as they do for their clubs. With Rashford last night, it was the other way around. Where has this player been for Manchester United this season? What has Jose Mourinho done with him?
‘Now you see why I always pick Romelu Lukaku,’ Mourinho sneered after one tepid performance from his forward understudies, but can this be all the player’s fault? Rashford didn’t seem to lack confidence in an England shirt, didn’t appear reluctant to take risks, to run at defenders, to try his tricks, to shoot from range. He did everything that Manchester United wanted of him all season. So where has he been; and why so different?
The goal, of course, was his crowning glory. Rashford picked the ball up on the right, looked, saw Costa Rica backing off, saw goalkeeper Keylor Navas slightly off his line, and went for it.
At first it looked as if his shot had gone through Navas’s hands, Loris Karius style, but replays revealed the truth: the goalkeeper was simply caught out. It went over his hands and he was slow to react, it wasn’t his finest moment, but there was no handling error. Rashford simply beat him with power, dip, a lovely strike, his third in an England shirt.
Will it be enough to earn him a place in the starting line-up? One imagines he will have to maintain this in every training session between now and the eve of the match with Tunisia to change Southgate’s intentions.
The team is as good as picked. Only one player kept his place from Saturday’s win over Nigeria – John Stones at the back – and time is running out for a bolter.
Where would he play? Presuming Harry Kane’s position is secure, including Rashford would mean leaving out one of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard or Raheem Sterling. Southgate would be unlikely to lose faith with any member of that trio on the back of an impressive display in a friendly. But, if it wasn’t working, if England couldn’t get the breakthrough? Southgate will surely recall this night when he is hailing his first cab off the rank.
In the circumstances – that many of the players out there must have known by now that they are squad men, when the tournament begins at least – this was a very decent performance.
What largely constitutes the shadow XI – Stones, Jordan Henderson and, possibly, Harry Maguire aside – looked committed and lively, even if the tempo did drop off after half-time as tends to happen in such encounters. Delph, certainly, did himself a favour with a hard-working stint in forward midfield, full of the vim and energy that might not have been apparent had populist favourites Jonjo Shelvey or Jack Wilshere been selected.
The game was nine minutes old when a Delph corner was met by a header from Phil Jones tipped over by Navas, and another set-piece almost extended England’s lead after 20 minutes.
Jones and Maguire both won headers and Jamie Vardy tried to pounce on the loose ball from close range, Navas doing well to smother. In the second-half, Henderson had a powerful shot saved, Maguire a header cleared off the line by Bryan Oviedo.
Ultimately, Rashford shared the goals with Danny Welbeck, whose second-half intervention showed why it is unfair to cast aspersions on his place in the squad, as so many do. Rashford worked a sweet little ball through to Alli whose cross was met by a diving header from Welbeck at the far post, his 16th England goal.
The margin of victory was no more than England deserved for an accomplished controlled display, that risked little in the way of physical injury, yet was commanding throughout.
At the other end, Jack Butland made one save from Johan Venegas but, frankly, Costa Rica were not up to much. They won’t be the same team as in 2014; thankfully, the same might be said of England.