England can head off to the World Cup by beating Costa Rica and keeping a clean sheet in Thursday evening's friendly international at Elland Road, says Dave Tindall...
"Costa Rica have failed to score in three of their last four away friendlies so an odds-against price looks fair."
England v Costa Rica
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England looking to go off on a high
A strong first 45 minutes but a less convincing second resulted in a 2-1 win for England against Nigeria on Saturday night.
Viewed with a wide-angled lens, that took their unbeaten run to nine games and was the sixth win during that sequence.
In some respects, it was the ideal result. The 2-1 win helped cement the winning habit while also keeping expectations about what lies ahead in the World Cup to realistic levels. England show promise and have a gameplan but there are flaws too.
Southgate will surely stick with the three-man defence again on Thursday night as it suits the players he has.
In terms of team news, he looks set to give Jamie Vardy a run-out while Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold may feature.
"There might be a couple of players we want to see in certain positions against Costa Rica," is all Southgate has revealed so far.
One angle to look at is that this game is taking place outside of Wembley. Looking at England's results when they've ventured to north, they beat Turkey 2-1 at Old Trafford and Australia 2-1 at the Stadium of Light in back-to-back games ahead of the 2016 Euros and lost 1-0 to Spain in Manchester back in 2007.
They've played twice before at Elland Road, drawing 3-3 with Sweden and losing 2-1 against Italy in 2002.
Costa Ricans not the force of 2014
Topping a group featuring England, Italy and Uruguay at the last World Cup was an astonishing feat by Costa Rica in 2014.
When they played Roy Hodgson's men in the final group game, England were already out so that previous clash may be of limited use to punters although Costa Rica will recall it with fondness.
Recent friendly games show a mixed bag of results for the Central Americans although the 3-0 home win over Northern Ireland and 1-0 victory away to Scotland could suggest they do well against British sides.
Less impressive are the 1-0 away defeats in Tunisia and Hungary and the 5-0 drubbing away to Spain in late 2017.
Against Northern Ireland, there were plenty of familiar faces on show, including Keylor Navas, Bryan Oviedo and Joel Campbell, who netted the second.
After trading at [1.45] against Nigeria, England are even shorter at [1.39] to bank another win. Costa Rica are on offer at [9.8] while The Draw is [5.2].
England have conceded just twice in their last seven games and haven't let one in during the opening 45 minutes in that run.
That opens up several opportunities but the simplest could be the best and I'll play England to win to nil at [2.08].
Costa Rica have failed to score in three of their last four away friendlies so an odds-against price looks fair.
If we're not expecting Costa Rica to contribute, the [1.96] for Under 2.5 goals could be the way to go. It's virtually the identical price, [1.95] for Overs which came in against Nigeria on Saturday.
Unders had landed in the previous six England games although that included tight affairs against Brazil, Germany and Italy when more caution was needed.
The hosts will be more adventurous against Costa Rica but I sway back to Unders given how disappointed Southgate was with England's defending early in the second half against Nigeria. He'll want to close those gaps this time.
Until the team news is confirmed, it's hard to get involved here. Jamie Vardy should start but the 10/11 (Sportsbook) is of limited interest although seven in 21 games for his country is decent, especially as he's been sub in 10 of those.
Harry Kane averages better than a goal per game under Southgate so the 4/6 (anytime) or 12/5 (first) are both options but only if he forms a two-pronged attack with Vardy and is on from the beginning.
For Costa Rica, both Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell are 4/1 (Sportsbook) to net.
Japan's Hiroyuki Kimura heads to Elland Road. A random appointment? No. Southgate specifically asked for an Asian official to take charge as he wants his players to experience different styles of refereeing.
England have been practising penalties after some training sessions too so Southgate is certainly leaving no stone unturned.
Dave Tindall's P/L, 2017/18