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Gareth Southgate's England World Cup selection dilemmas
Last Updated: 18/06/18 9:04am
England signed off their preparations for the World Cup with a 2-0 friendly win over Costa Rica on Thursday - and now Gareth Southgate has some key decisions to make about his starting XI.
Southgate used the game at Elland Road to look at some different options to the team which beat Nigeria in the first warm-up friendly, making 10 changes to the line-up.
With just over a week before England's World Cup opener against Tunisia, we look at which selections the manager will be weighing up as he mulls over his best team to kick-off the campaign…
Jordan Pickford v Jack Butland
With out-of-form Joe Hart left at home, there is a battle for England's goalkeeper spot. Pickford appears to be in prime position, having been handed the No 1 squad number and selected in the warm up with Nigeria.
Butland was given his shot against Costa Rica and produced an eye-catching stop midway through the first half - but his withdrawal in the second half for Nick Pope suggests Southgate has made up his mind.
The Stoke shot-stopper has made his intentions to fight for the position clear, but given Pickford had a better Premier League campaign and was a star performer for the U21s at last summer's European Championships, Everton's goalkeeper seems likely to get the nod.
"I don't think there's much between them on ability, Pickford just has something a bit different," former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton told Sky Sports News on Thursday. "He has the confidence, he has shown that in the games he has played for England, and he is good with his feet and I think Gareth Southgate wants to play out from the back. Butland is commanding and confident but I think Pickford has that bit extra."
Ashley Young v Danny Rose
Rose endured an injury-hit 2017/18 season but has worked hard to get back to full fitness in time for the World Cup and the Tottenham defender's performance against Costa Rica suggested he is in good shape for the tournament. No player produced more successful dribbles than him on Thursday night.
His rival for a starting spot is Manchester United's Ashley Young, who delivered a reminder of his own attacking attributes against Nigeria, producing a number of dangerous crosses by stepping on to his right foot and whipping the ball in from the left flank.
Should Southgate go for the Rose, a natural left-footer and natural left-back, or Young, who has revived his Old Trafford career after converting from being a winger? It's a close call and likely to be one Southgate debates right up until the eve of the Tunisia match.
Kieran Trippier v Trent Alexander-Arnold
On the other side of the defence, Trippier is favourite to take the right wing-back slot as Kyle Walker continues in his new role as a right-sided centre back. The Tottenham man, renowned for his crossing ability, was a threat from set pieces against Nigeria and as a substitute against Costa Rica and is likely to take control of England's corners and free-kicks if selected.
However, Alexander-Arnold's fairytale story has taken him on an incredible journey already and it was the 19-year-old presiding over dead ball situations at Elland Road. The fearless teenager is knocking on the door for a starting role at the World Cup after his impressive international debut.
Trippier may still have the advantage but what a 12 months it has been for Alexander-Arnold, who represented his beloved Liverpool in the Champions League final in May.
Gary Cahill v Harry Maguire
Rewind a couple of months and it would have been a surprise to see Cahill in the England squad and vying to start their World Cup opener. The Chelsea defender was out of favour at Stamford Bridge and, after a string of unused substitute stints with the national team, left out of Southgate's squad for the March internationals.
But the centre-back battled back into contention for club and country and scored a thumping header against Nigeria to underline his return to the fold - and remind everyone of the threat he possesses in the opposition box.
That start came courtesy of a minor injury to Maguire, who returned to the team on Thursday and did nothing wrong against a limited Costa Rica. The Leicester man has had a fine season and combines power and poise on the ball to provide both defensive security and attack-starting creativity. Will Southgate go with an experienced head or the new boy on the block?
Eric Dier v Jordan Henderson
"We will only want to play with one pivot," Southgate said ahead of the friendly with Costa Rica, sparking speculation over whether Dier or Henderson will be trusted with the important holding role. Both players have been consistent picks for England over the past couple of years, often playing side by side. Now Southgate has a decision to make.
Dier will offer him a good defensive option, which could prove attractive if Southgate is keen on going with two attack-minded central midfielders ahead of the anchor, as he did with Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli against Nigeria. Dier also has the attributes and defensive experience to drop into centre-back positions when the men behind him come out with the ball.
Henderson, who marshaled the midfield for Liverpool as they reached the Champions League final, was given a run out against Costa Rica and barely misplaced a pass all night. He may have missed out on the World Cup captaincy to Harry Kane, but Henderson also offers leadership in the centre of the park - and Southgate has made no secret about his desire to have commanding figures across the pitch.
Marcus Rashford or Jesse Lingard
If Thursday's clash with Costa Rica was an opportunity to impress, Rashford seized his chance with both hands, producing a standout performance and scoring a stunning long-range goal. Rashford looked reinvigorated and full of confidence as he caused problems across the opposition backline.
It was an exciting display and Southgate may well have left Elland Road pondering the best way to get Rashford into his XI. The forward would prefer to play up front, where there is competition from Kane and Vardy, while Raheem Sterling is surely assured of a starting spot, having played just off the striker in recent internationals. Another option could be at the expense of Lingard.
Lingard was deployed alongside Alli in an attacking midfield role against Nigeria, though, so if Rashford were to replace Lingard his inclusion would need a tactical rethink.
Conversely, Lingard has won praise from Southgate in the past. The manager admires his work rate, his ability to link attacks and, as Lingard has shown for United, his ability to score important goals in key moments.
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