Plenty for England boss to ponder ahead of World Cup opener
Who will line up for England in their World Cup opener against Tunisia on June 18?
England’s 2-0 victory over Costa Rica on Thursday was Gareth Southgate’s last chance to see his squad in match action before they kick-off their World Cup campaign against Tunisia on June 18.
Southgate made 10 changes to the side that beat Nigeria last weekend and he now has some difficult decisions to make about his starting XI at the tournament.
Read on as we look at some of the key areas the England manager will be thinking about over the next week.
Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford or Jack Butland
Pickford looks to be the favourite having been handed the No 1 squad number and selected in the first warm-up game.
Butland got his chance against Costa Rica and did what was asked of him, but the Everton stopper will probably get the nod against Tunisia.
Pickford’s superior distribution makes him a better fit for the way Southgate wants England to play and he deserves the chance to shine at the World Cup.
Centre-back: Gary Cahill or Harry Maguire
Cahill has forced his way back into the England squad and his goal against Nigeria highlighted his threat from set pieces.
Maguire was untroubled against Costa Rica and is more comfortable on the ball than Cahill, but he does lack the Chelsea man’s experience.
The Leicester City defender will probably start the Tunisia game, although this battle is one of the most difficult football tips to make.
Left wing-back: Ashley Young or Danny Rose
Young was a constant threat down the left flank against Nigeria and his delivery from wide areas is superior to Rose.
However, the Tottenham defender’s performance against Costa Rica suggested he is in good shape for the tournament after an injury hit campaign.
Young would be unlucky to miss out, but there is a niggling suspicion that Southgate will favour Rose for the opening game.
Centre Midfield: Jordan Henderson or Eric Dier
Southgate appears to be leaning towards playing just one of Henderson or Dier at the World Cup and it’s a decision that has made England look more accomplished going forward.
Henderson played well for Liverpool for much of this season, although he was given a chasing in the Champions League final against Real Madrid.
Dier possesses the ability to drop into the backline if the defenders travel forward with the ball, but Henderson is expected to start against Tunisia.
Forward: Marcus Rashford or Raheem Sterling
Sterling linked up well with Harry Kane against Nigeria, but Rashford’s performance against Costa Rica has given Southgate plenty to ponder.
Rashford played with plenty of verve and his long-range effort for the first goal left Real Madrid keeper Keylor Navas flapping at thin air.
Southgate will probably go for Sterling, although Rashford produced the better performance of the pair in the two warm-up games.