England concluded their World Cup preparations in impressive fashion by comfortably beating Costa Rica at Elland Road.
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 before they depart for Russia.
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 has had a frustrating season at Old Trafford, where his starting appearances have been restricted, and his confidence appeared drained in the closing months of the campaign.
That meant his hopes of a starting place in England’s World Cup line-up have drifted slightly – but this was an electrifying reminder of just what the 20-year-old can offer Southgate.
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 has demonstrated he has the temperament and class to make a crucial contribution in Russia.
According to BBC, 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.