England will ring the changes for Thursday’s friendly against Costa Rica in Leeds with manager Gareth Southgate handing Trent Alexander-Arnold his senior debut and keen to give his entire squad playing time before the World Cup.
England beat Nigeria 2-1 at Wembley on Saturday and will face a tricky test against fellow-qualifiers Costa Rica, who reached the quarterfinals four years ago in Brazil.
One change to his side that Southgate confirmed on Wednesday is that Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland will start ahead of Everton’s Jordan Pickford, who has been handed the No. 1 shirt.
“For sure Jack Butland plays in goal,” Southgate said. “We will make a lot of changes and Trent Alexander-Arnold will get a debut. One of the keys of us getting through these two matches was to try and make sure every member of our squad gets game time.
“You want to know who is in form and any time a player has 10 minutes or 90 minutes on the field they have an opportunity to make a statement in the way they play.”
While England’s World Cup lineup has begun to take shape in Southgate’s mind, he said there remained some openings for players who can make an impression.
“There are definitely places up for grabs for the first game of the tournament,” he said. “There are a couple of places that always as a manager you are looking at who your better players are, but then form and physical condition means it always evolves, a football team is a moving, living beast.
“Everyone has to stay on their toes all the time, there is no room for complacency in training or slipping of standards. I am not sitting two weeks before a game and saying ‘That’s it, you’re comfortable as you’re in,'” he said.
Southgate was asked at the news conference whether he would have any hesitation in starting 19-year-old, uncapped Liverpool right-back Alexander-Arnold in the opening game against Tunisia and said he had faith in the youngster.
“No, that’s why he’s here. I’ve not got a player in the squad who I would think twice about putting into the opening game of the World Cup.
“He’s here on merit. He’s performed exceptionally well this season and has settled into the group really well.
“I’m really pleased to have him with us. It’s a huge moment for him, of course, but well deserved.”