Marcus Rashford scored an absolute howitzer for which Ruben Loftus-Cheek was hilariously credited with an assist, but it was their overall play that was most impressive in Thursday night’s World Cup warm-up friendly against Costa Rica, which was played at Elland Road in Leeds for some reason.
I daresay England looked very good in the first half, before a much more subdued second-half effort, and that was mostly down to the efforts of the two youngsters. Rashford, all of 20 years of age, was toying with Costa Rica, while Loftus-Cheek, all of 22, was cool and calm and composed and solid in the middle. Their interplay at times was excellent, and at worst very good (until the likes of Phil Jones tried to get involved). England’s 3-5-2 gave both of them the freedom to express themselves and Rashford especially took very good advantage of it (with Vardy staying more central). In a similar formation, Loftus-Cheek as the nominal no.8-no.10 hybrid should be able to show off his skills at the World Cup as well. His combination of size and strength should in theory give him an advantage over many others who usually play in those positions.
Of course, it’s just a friendly, so expectations should, as usual, be tempered. Neither Rashford nor Loftus-Cheek may play much, at least at first, in Russia. But all told it was a relatively fun game to watch, especially as far as international friendlies go. Gary Cahill also played, taking the captain’s armband from Jordan Henderson for the final 25 minutes, during which time fellow substitutes Dele Alli and Danny Welbeck combined to add a long-overdue second for England and make the result safe.
So that’s the warm-ups done for the Three Lions. Next stop: Russia! England take on Panama a week from Monday to begin their latest journey to a quarterfinal penalty shootout elimination.