London, June 8 (IANS) England concluded their World Cup preparations in impressive fashion by comfortably beating Costa Rica 2-0 at the Elland Road stadium here.
Manager Gareth Southgate made 10 changes from Saturday’s win against Nigeria at Wembley — and was rewarded with some fine individual displays and a commanding team performance in their final friendly on Thursday before they depart for Russia, the BBC reported.
Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford was the standout performer, pressing his World Cup claims with an outstanding first-half strike to put England ahead and threatening throughout.
Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope was given his debut as a second-half replacement for Jack Butland as Southgate made a host of changes, and Danny Welbeck — another substitute — wrapped up a thoroughly deserved win with a diving header from Dele Alli’s ball.
Rashford was a threat to Costa Rica from the first whistle, running at their defence with searing pace and mobility, capping it all with a superb dipping shot that left goalkeeper Keylor Navas helpless.
He thrilled the expectant Elland Road crowd with his running, and while he could not maintain that momentum after the break, this was only to be expected as the rhythm of this friendly was broken up by a raft of substitutions.
Raheem Sterling may still be favourite to start with Harry Kane in England’s attacking format in Volgograd, but Rashford, 20, has demonstrated he has the temperament and class to make a crucial contribution in Russia.
If the aim of this friendly was for players on the fringes to give Southgate food for thought, Rashford’s night was a rousing success.
England plays the first match against Tunisia on June 18. The others in Group G are Panama and Belgium.