Gareth Southgate dropped a heavy hint that Jordan Pickford will be England’s World Cup number one by selecting him for the victory over Nigeria, but declined to publicly settle the issue with one more friendly to go.
Southgate has yet to reveal whether Pickford or Jack Butland will be his first-choice goalkeeper in Russia but the scales tipped heavily in the Everton man’s favour as he was given 90 minutes in the 2-1 win at Wembley.
That was only Pickford’s third senior cap, meaning another outing would surely be beneficial if he is to don the gloves against Tunisia on June 18.
But when invited to put the issue to bed he demurred, opening a slim chance for Butland to play the final warm-up fixture at Elland Road on Thursday.
“We’ll give consideration to who plays in goal against Costa Rica over the next 24 or 36 hours,” he said.
“But I was really pleased with what Jordan did. Normally, when you play for England, there’s not an awful lot of opportunity to produce a lot of saves. But his decision making on crosses, the punch he made, his distribution and calmness to slide passes into midfield… that was really important to the way we want to play.
He can be very pleased with his performance.”
Barring a late change of heart, that endorsement should see the 24-year-old start his first competitive England match in the Group G opener in Volgograd.
Another player who did his chances no harm at all was Tottenham‘s Kieran Trippier.
He only emerged as a starter at right wing-back when Southgate decided to utilise first choice Kyle Walker as part of a central three in March.
The selection of the uncapped but precocious Trent Alexander-Arnold means he has fresh competition too, but his corner provided the opening goal for Gary Cahill on Saturday, moments after testing the keeper with a sharp free-kick.
Those at Spurs have long been aware of Trippier’s crossing skills and corner-taking prowess and they could yet be important in the Three Lions’ World Cup bid.
“His quality on the ball is outstanding,” said Southgate.
“There were two set-plays, the one just before the goal – a free-kick bang on the money – then the corner for Gary.
“It was a great delivery. But we also know his quality on the ball when he’s in the final third.
“Kieran has outstanding quality and that kind of profile in that position is very important.”
England would be content if they kick off their campaign with an identical result against Tunisia, but Southgate was quick to stress that the game was not scheduled as a direct dress rehearsal.
“We didn’t choose this game to replicate exactly what Tunisia would do,” he said.
“We play most of our matches against European teams, so this was a good opportunity to play an African team.
“Tunisia play different to the style of play to Nigeria. They keep the ball very well and press very well. They’re ranked one place below us in the rankings. We’ll have to be spot on in our preparation and performance to win.”
Vincent Kompany is a doubt for the World Cup after suffering a groin problem in Belgium’s goalless draw with Portugal in Brussels.
The 32-year-old Manchester City defender will undergo a scan on Sunday to determine the extent of the latest in a long line of injury setbacks.
Kompany is danger of missing out for Belgium who launch their World Cup campaign against Panama on June 18 – before taking on Gareth Southgate’s England 10 days later.
Here, we look at Kompany’s injuries going back to the 2015-16 season when he missed much of the campaign.
Leaves the field after 75 minutes of the Champions League loss to Juventus at the Etihad Stadium.
The score is 1-1 at the time but City are eventually beaten 2-1. Kompany initially says the injury is “not serious” and his substitution is “just a precaution” but he does not play again for a month.
Plays in Belgium’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Israel against City manager Manuel Pellegrini’s wishes. Pellegrini claims it has hampered his recovery and the player is put on the bench for the next two City games. He does not appear in the first of them and comes on only in the 89th minute in the second.
Plays 90 minutes in a goalless draw at Aston Villa but just days later he pulls out of the Belgium squad as a precaution, citing more calf trouble. He ends up missing City’s next eight games.
Returns to action as a 62nd-minute substitute against Sunderland, but his comeback lasts just nine minutes. He suffers a bad reaction and does not play again until February 14.
Just seven games into his latest comeback, he injures his calf again, pulling up in the early minutes of City’s Champions League last-16 second-leg clash against Dynamo Kiev. Pellegrini says he will be out for a “minimum of one month”.
Limps off in the early stages of City’s 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final second leg and misses out on Belgium’s participation in Euro 2016.
Misses City’s 4-0 defeat at Barcelona as a precaution because of a groin problem. He had returned from the injury with a brief substitute appearance in the 1-1 draw with Everton the previous weekend.
Damages his knee ligaments in the 2-1 win at Crystal Palace and undergoes specialist treatment in Spain but does not return until the 3-0 FA Cup win against the same opponents on April 15, scoring one goal. Injuries restrict him to 16 appearances throughout the season, including Belgium’s 2-0 win in Estonia in a World Cup qualifier in June.
Hits a seat in the dugout in frustration following his latest injury setback after limping off with a calf problem just 11 minutes into City’s 1-0 victory at Newcastle. Ends another injury-hit season with 22 appearances.
A groin injury in the 0-0 draw against Portugal in a pre-World Cup friendly in Brussels puts his involvement in Russia in doubt with coach Roberto Martinez due to slim his 28-man squad down to 23. Kompany had coped with muscle and knee problems during City’s title-winning season only to suffer more injury heartache on the international scene.
Joachim Low’s team have not won a game since October, drawing with England, France and Spain and losing to Brazil and now Austria since beating Azerbaijan.
Germany led early on through Mesut Ozil’s strike but second-half goals from Martin Hinteregger and Alessandro Schopf turned the match on its head and gave Austria, who will not be at the World Cup in Russia this month, a seventh successive victory.
The game at the Worthersee Stadion in Klagenfurt, which was delayed by 100 minutes because of heavy rain, was the first of two friendlies for defending world champions Germany, who will also face Saudi Arabia at the BayArena before beginning the defence of their title against Mexico with their Group F opener on June 17 in Moscow.
It was a chance for the fringe players in Low’s 27-man squad to earn their spot in the final 23 and Freiburg striker Nils Petersen was handed his debut. Meanwhile Manuel Neuer made his first start since September 2017 after recovering from a broken foot.
Despite concerns over injury, the pitch was not a factor. It looked like the match could be called off following torrential rain but the bulk of the water drained away.
Germany had no trouble adapting to the conditions and went ahead after 11 minutes. A mistake by goalkeeper Jorg Siebenhandl saw him kick the ball straight to Ozil, who returned it into the net with a delicate finish at the far post.
Ozil should have quickly made it two but shot straight at Siebenhand before Julian Brandt burst into the penalty area and poked an effort narrowly wide.
Austria started to find their feet around the half hour mark and some patient build up play created a chance for Peter Zulj but he shot straight at Neuer, who shortly afterwards made a superb save to push away a strike from Florian Grillitsch after he had tried to catch out the goalkeeper at his near post.
Germany survived until half-time but Austria kept up the pressure at the start of the second half and deservedly drew level after 53 minutes. Hinteregger sprinted to meet a cross at the far post and sent a volley back across goal and into the net. It was superb technique from the central defender.
Zulj saw another effort roll inches past the post before Schopf beat Neuer for the second time after 69 minutes, converting a cut-back from Stefan Lainer from close range.
Germany toiled to create anything of note in reply and while their starting XI against Mexico will look a lot different to the team on Saturday, their inability to pose much of an attacking threat will be a worry to Low.