By Simon Evans
LEEDS, England (Reuters) – A stunning strike from Marcus Rashford and a Danny Welbeck header gave a confident-looking England a 2-0 win over Costa Rica in their World Cup warm-up friendly at Elland Road on Thursday.
Rashford, who impressed throughout with his speed and control, fired England ahead in the 13th minute, unleashing a dipping drive from the right which flew past Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas.
England, whose manager Gareth Southgate made 10 changes from the side which beat Nigeria 2-1 at Wembley on Saturday, dominated possession against a mostly unadventurous Costa Rica but created few clear chances.
After the break, Jordan Henderson forced a fine save out of Navas with a blast from the edge of the box and defender Harry Maguire had a header cleared off the line by Bryan Oviedo.
The win was wrapped up in the 76th minute when substitute Welbeck, for some a surprise choice in England’s World Cup squad, stooped to head in Dele Alli’s cross.
England start their World Cup Group G campaign in Russia against Tunisia on June 18 and they will head into that fixture in Volgograd in good spirits after two friendly wins.
Southgate was keen to give all his 23-man squad playing time and there were debuts for Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who started before making way for Kieran Trippier, and Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope, who came on for Jack Butland in the 65th minute.
In the opening half, with Manchester United forward Rashford influential in the inside-left role, England showed their pace and comfort on the ball but after the interval the game became slower and much less interesting.
While Ruben Loftus-Cheek offered a reminder of his strength on the ball and Henderson delivered good service for the strikers with well-weighted balls from midfield, it was Rashford who made the strongest impression — and not only for his brilliant goal.
“I feel in good physical form leading up to the tournament. I still need to get in the box a bit more to finish off chances. It means a lot to be involved but going to the World Cup and playing a major part in my main aim,” the 20-year-old said.
“We have got a good chance. Anything is possible and we have to go there with the highest expectations.”
Costa Rica get their World Cup E campaign under way against Serbia on June 17 in Samara.
(Reporting by Simon Evans,; Editing by Toby Davis and Ed Osmond)