See the Egypt, Nigeria and Belgium stars gear up for World Cup 2018 with a host of friendlies

David Cooper 7/06/2018
Eden Hazard of Belgium against Egypt on Wednesday night.

Preperations for World Cup 2018 continued with a trio of friendlies on Wednesday.

Mohamed Salah-less Egypt were put to the sword by Belgium, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Marouane Fellaini getting the goals at Heysel Stadium for a 3-0 victory.

Panama dominated possession in Norway, but Bournemouth forward Joshua King earned a 1-0 victory in just the fourth minute for the hosts at Ullevaal Stadion.

The early match saw another 1-0 defeat for World Cup entrants against non-qualifiers. Amid the pouring rain of Austria’s Rudolf-Tonn-Stadion, Nigeria were felled by Czech Republic and Chelsea-owned centre-back Tomas Kalas’ solitary effort.

Check out our gallery of the day’s action.

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Harry Kane and Trent Alexander-Arnold feature among England v Costa Rica talking points

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Gareth Southgate's England will play their final warm-up game ahead of the WC.

England play their final World Cup warm-up when Costa Rica visit Leeds on Thursday night.

Here, we look at the key issues before the game.

WILL HENDERSON RELISH HIS RETURN?

Jordan Henderson saw a potentially career-defining night go up in smoke in Kiev when he captained Liverpool to their Champions League defeat by Real Madrid. He was given extra time to holiday with family and was present only as a spectator for the victory over Nigeria at the weekend. The midfielder insists he is ready to get “back to business” for his country but how much did leading his club on such a draining night really take out of his mental reserves?

Henderson was given some extra time off to be with his family.

Henderson was given some extra time off to be with his family.

PICKFORD OR MIX?

All signs seem to be pointing toward Everton’s Jordan Pickford wearing the gloves against Tunisia in Volgograd, after he followed 90 minutes at Wembley with the coveted number one jersey in the official squad lists. Logic dictates that with just three caps to his name, he needs another outing before Russia. But manager Gareth Southgate is a big admirer of Jack Butland and could be tempted to offer one last chance to the Stoke man. It would, though, take a major showing to upset the agenda at this stage and England will be hoping Costa Rica do not work their chosen goalkeeper that much.

It will be interesting to see if Pickford starts ahead of Butland again.

It will be interesting to see if Pickford starts ahead of Butland again.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

England are back at Elland Road after a 16-year absence, and playing away from Wembley for the first time since their pre-Euro 2016 fixtures took them to the home grounds of Manchester City and Sunderland. With the sale of the national stadium being debated at present – and one of the suggested benefits being more freedom to take the Three Lions away from the capital more frequently – it is a big night in PR terms. A passionate crowd, a different experience and positive reports from players and fans could help promote the idea of a touring England team.

England will be away from Wembley for the first time since 2016.

England will be away from Wembley for the first time since 2016.

ALEXANDER-ARNOLD TO CRASH THE PARTY?

It is getting late in the day for Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold to make a play for a first-team role in Russia. By the time the full-time whistle blows England’s Group G opener will be just 11 days away and he has yet to play a single minute for his country. But his entire career development has been played out in advanced fast-forward this season, from youth prospect to Champions League finalist in the blink of an eye. He will expect to see some action against Costa Rica and will be eager to steal the limelight.

Alexander-Arnold will be eager to feature against Costa Rica.

Alexander-Arnold will be eager to feature against Costa Rica.

SYSTEM CHECK

Despite Southgate’s best denials, it is hard not to see this fixture as a direct warm-up for the group game against Panama. Costa Rica may be be ranked 30 places higher than their fellow Central Americans but how England line up against them – and the kind of football they try to play – will surely offer heavy hints about Southgate’s plans. If there is even a slim chance he will switch his back three to a back four against Panama, or be tempted to pair Jamie Vardy with Harry Kane, this would be the moment to test the water. Eyes peeled for clues.

It will be a final chance for Southgate to test his formations.

It will be a final chance for Southgate to test his formations.

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Watch: Our Sport360 experts look ahead to Group C at the World Cup

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In another one of our preview shows at Sport360 studios looking ahead to the World Cup in Russia, Alex Broun sits down with two of our squad to discuss the teams, players and fixtures to look out for in Group C.

Euro 2016 finalists France, as well as Australia, Peru and Denmark are the teams in the spotlight.

Alex is joined by Stuart Appleby and Chris Bailey.

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