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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Three Lions demonstrate strength in depth against Costa Rica

Liam Flin with the lessons from this week's internationals

England manager Gareth Southgate is expected to ring the changes
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Morocco 2-1 Slovakia Monday
Morocco will be confident of taking on Spain, Portugal and Iran in Russia after a strong performance against Slovakia.

The Africans had 22 shots in the game, with Nordin Amrabat and Hakim Ziyech particularly dangerous cutting inside from the flanks. Having not shipped a single goal in qualifying, Morocco have now shown competency in the final third as well and goalscorer Younes Belhanda is one to watch in Russia.

Russia 1-1 Turkey Tuesday
Poor finishing cost Russia the chance of victory over Turkey in their final warm-up match and they are heading into the tournament without a win in seven matches.

Fyodor Smolov is expected to lead the line for the World Cup hosts in the finals but he missed a close-range chance late on and a good move for Aleksandr Samedov’s opener was as exciting as it got for Stanislav Cherchesov’s side.

Belgium 3-0 Egypt Wednesday
Belgium responded to their stalemate against Portugal with a captivating victory over an insipid Egypt side.

Eden Hazard rounded off his tournament preparations with a goal and an assist, while a makeshift Belgian defence featuring Laurent Ciman in place of the injured Vincent Kompany silenced the Egyptians who were short of ideas in Mohamed Salah’s absence.

Egypt’s 45-year-old goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary showed signs of his age with his slow responses handing Romelu Lukaku the opener and the speed and link-up play of Belgium’s midfield proved too much for Hector Cuper’s men.

England 2-0 Costa Rica Thursday
Gareth Southgate made ten changes for England’s final warm-up match and he will be left with some selection dilemmas after a new-look side impressed against Costa Rica.

Marcus Rashford made a number of direct solo runs, finishing one with a tremendous 20-yard strike, and was the key contributor to a dominant attacking display.

The Three Lions probed the Costa Rica defence from all angles, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Danny Rose stretching the opposing rearguard, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek strengthened his bid for a place by providing a calming presence in midfield.

Portugal 3-0 Algeria Thursday
Portugal manager Fernando Santos’ switch to a younger contingent of players paid dividends against frail Algeria with 21-year-old Goncalo Guedes netting a brace either side of Bruno Fernandes’ strike.

Cristiano Ronaldo, playing his 150th match for his country, had a goal disallowed and was supported by a fluid attacking midfield unit who peppered the Algeria goal.

Iceland 2-2 Ghana Thursday
Iceland put in an uncharacteristic performance in their final game before their daunting World Cup opener against Argentina in Moscow.

Ordinarily steady and conservative in their style, Heimir Hallgrimsson’s team conceded a two-goal lead to the Ghanaians, pressing for more goals after Kari Arnason and Alfred Finnbogason netted. Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey scored the equaliser for Ghana and was central to a midfield who dictated the tempo of the game.

Best of the rest
South Korea will lock horns with champions Germany and competent Sweden and Mexico sides in Russia but their goalless draw with Bolivia suggests they could struggle.

Neither Nigeria nor Panama got on the scoresheet, losing 1-0 to Czech Republic and Norway respectively, while Serbia fell to defeat by the same scoreline in a scrappy affair with a youthful Chile team.

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Heimir Hallgrimsson’s team conceded a two-goal lead to the Ghanaians, pressing for more goals after Kari Arnasson and Alfred Finnbogason netted
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