England were impressive in their 2-1 win over Nigeria at Wembley last week, particularly in the first-half, and the surprisingly strong management of Gareth Southgate since replacing Sam Allardyce on a permanent basis will give fans belief that they can at least improve on their 2014 World Cup showing and get out of the group stage in Russia.

The Three Lions have perennially disappointed their fanbase since winning football’s biggest prize in 1966, and few if any are expecting that record to change this summer, but for once they look flexible tactically and, crucially, players are picked based on form and fitness.

England have been drawn in Group G against Tunisia, Panama and Belgium and, as they play their European opponents on the final day, they can all but secure their qualification by winning their opening two matches – starting with Tunisia on 18th June. Their impressive form in World Cup qualifying and friendlies extends to well over a year and they have conceded just twice since September.



On Thursday night Leeds United’s Elland Road stadium is where Southgate’s squad will complete their tournament preparations before heading to Russia, and they are facing Costa Rica. The South Americans, of course, drew with England four years ago in Brazil to ensure that their opponents finished bottom of the group, and they are getting ready to tackle Group E where they will face Switzerland, Brazil and Serbia.

With Brazil favourites to win the trophy Costa Rica will have to be at their best to stand a chance of claiming second place and reaching the last-16, as they did four years ago on their march to the quarter-finals. Facing England, then, will be a proper test, though recent results have been mixed with a 5-0 defeat to Spain followed up by losses to Hungary and Tunisia but wins over Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Bet on this match at Tipbet.com, with extensive odds markets available for all internationals. England are 1.40 to outright get another pre-World Cup win, while it is 2.05 that both of the countries score at any point. Though Southgate is likely to make changes from the Nigeria victory, his team are still at 2.50 to score at least three times. The visitors are available at 4.55 to claim a draw or 7.75 to win.