Probables and Possibles was how many described the two different sides England played in their final two matches before the upcoming World Cup; the latter being used to describe the team that performed against Costa Rica on Thursday.
Gareth Southgate has not given much away as to what his preferences will be going into the biggest football tournament in the world. In England’s last two games before the World Cup, manager Southgate fielded two very different teams.
Ten changes were made in their final match ahead of the World Cup from the side that beat Nigeria 2-1—John Stones was the only man in the squad to keep his place in the team. The young defender has become increasingly confident in the back-line for his nation after a Premier League winning campaign. The only outfield man not to start either match was Danny Welbeck, who still managed over 50 minutes and one goal across the two friendlies.
One thing for sure is that England will be looking to play a formation with three central defenders and wing backs. England’s style of play has somewhat adapted under this new formation. In friendlies gone by, the formation has prompted a ‘build from the back’ style of football.
Both Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland were obviously looking to play out from the back at every possible opportunity. The wing-backs offered an incredible width to fit their style which enabled intricate passing routes.
The star performer in the first pre-World Cup friendly was Gary Cahill. His knowledge, in a relatively inexperienced squad, shone above all. He scored the goal that set England well on their way. On top of this, he showed his resilience in a decent defensive display.
Of the ‘possible’ squad, Marcus Rashford performed exceptionally as a striker. His long-range dipping effort eluded non-other than Keylor Navas, who had just won a Champions League trophy. His energy was fantastic as he pressed the back-line. For a long time, England have missed a player who will often look to drive at defences and try a trick or two. In Marcus Rashford they have found just that.
Another man who has made more than a very strong case for himself is another striker, Danny Welbeck. Not starting either game, and clearly viewed as a ‘Plan B’ striker by Southgate, Welbeck did not let this phase him and he managed to improve on his already very impressive goal scoring record for his national side.
Without revealing too much, Southgate has shown the many watching that this youthful England side possesses a great deal of freshness, will, flair and excitement.