ROAD TO RUSSIA: England To Play Nigeria, Costa Rica In Friendlies
ENGLAND added fellow World Cup qualifiers Nigeria and Costa Rica to their pre-World Cup friendlies schedule yesterday.
Gareth Southgate’s side will play Nigeria at Wembley on June 2 and Costa Rica at Leeds United’s Elland Road stadium on June 7 as they prepare for the summer tournament in Russia.
England topped their group in qualifying and coach Southgate sees the Nigerians and Costa Ricans as ideal preparation for two of their first round opponents Tunisia and debutants Panama.
“We’ve mostly played European opposition up to now and the Brazil game (a 0-0 draw in a friendly in November) acted as a reminder that we need to challenge ourselves in different ways as a team,” said Southgate.
“We’re going into a World Cup where we will play African and Central American opposition so we get that with the games against Nigeria and Costa Rica, but it’s not just about the games we’ve got in the group but hopefully beyond that as well.
“We want to expose the team to different styles and different experiences.”
England — whose best World Cup performance since the winning the tournament in 1966 was a semi-final penalty shootout loss to West Germany in 1990 — already have Netherlands and Italy, two giants of the world game who failed to qualify for Russia lined-up for friendlies in March.
Southgate’s team begins its campaign against Tunisia in Volgograd on June 18. They then play Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on June 24 before concluding the group stage against Belgium four days later in Kaliningrad.