Marcus Rashford staked his claim to start England’s World Cup campaign with a stunning strike in a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica in a friendly in Leeds on Thursday.
Danny Welbeck also justified his inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s squad by coming off the bench to seal the win.
In England’s last match before their tournament opener against Tunisia in 11 days’ time, Manchester United’s Rashford was the star of a much-changed side. Rashford’s dipping drive at 13 minutes was the highlight of an all-round satisfactory evening for the hosts as they extended their unbeaten run to 10 games, stretching back nearly a year.
A sublime piece of skill down the left forced an early corner from which his United team-mate Phil Jones saw a looping header turned onto the bar by Costa Rica’s star goalkeeper, Keylor Navas. However, Navas, fresh off his third consecutive Champions League title with Real Madrid, was completely caught out moments later as Rashford unleashed a powerful drive from 25 yards that dipped perfectly over him and into the top corner for his third international goal.
Navas was a hero of Costa Rica’s incredible run to the World Cup quarterfinals four years ago in Brazil, helping to knock England out of the group stages on the way.
However, there was a gulf in skill between England and Costa Rica, despite the fact that Southgate’s lineup for the match was largely second string.
Navas kept his side in the game by denying Jamie Vardy from point-blank range as he latched onto Leicester teammate Harry Maguire’s knockdown. At the other end, Jack Butland was handed a final chance to impress and try and oust Jordan Pickford as Southgate’s first-choice goalkeeper. He wasn’t called into action until 27 minutes when he made a smart save high to his left to turn Johan Venegas’s effort behind.
Costa Rica face tournament favorites Brazil as well as Serbia and Switzerland in Group E, and will need to show far more ambition once they get to Russia if they are to replicate their heroics of four years ago.