Posted: 6/9/2018


        The last time I remember watching Costa Rica live was in Genoa 1990 when they beat Sweden and also did the same to Scotland. Their coach was Bora Militanovic the Serbian who next took over with USA. He has coached EIGHT national teams starting with Mexico and later Nigeria, China, Honduras, Jamaica and Iraq, plus 7 club teams.

       It was nice to be in a sell out crowd of over 36,000 in West Yorkshire and away from Wembley, so expensive to get to for most fans up north. On a Thursday night local hotels were full as fans came from far and wide. I was approached by a fan from Gloucester in the south-west asking how to get to the ground. We walked through the city centre to the line waiting for the frequent double deckers for the 10 minute ride, Only £1.50 return and added to the £25.00 ticket a prettyy good bargain.

          Los Ticos had beaten Northern Ireland in Estadio Nacional, San Jose at an 11.00am kick off on Sunday, presumably to then take an overmight trans-Atlantic flight. Gareth Southgate made 10 changes from Saturday's 2-1 win over Nigeria at Wembley and had asked fror an Asian referee, so at great expense Hiroyuka Kimura was flown over. I like the way that Southgate is managing his mostly young 23 man squad, who have plenty of skill and speed all over the pitch.

          Marcus Rashford of Manchester United was jeered as his name was read out but cheered at full time. His remarkable 13th minute long range strike had the fans out of their seats, waving the free St George's flags with the Three Lions logos, which were found on each seat. Danny Rose and Fabian Delph got their start at Leeds United. The last national team fixture here was a friendly 2-1 loss to Giovani Trappattoni's Azurri in 2002. Rashford's  shot flew past Real Madrid's keeper Keylor Navas, who could only grasp thin air. 

        Danny Welbeck came on as a second half sub and scored the second with a header from a pass from Dele Alli of Spurs. Jack Butland started in goal and was replaced by Nick Pope of Burnley after 65 minutes so it looks like Jordan Pickford will start against Tunisia on Monday 16th June.

        England fly to their base near St. Petersburg next Tuesday and a long flight for their opener in Volgograd versus Tunisia. In 1998 there were three days of rioting in Marseilles prior to the two teams meeting at Stade Velodrome, which The Three Lions won easily 2--0. 40,000 out of 60,000 inside were England fans, but went out in the second round to Argentina.  Costa Rica have a final warm up against Belgium on Monday in Brussels, with Serbia, Brazil and Switzerland in their Group E, so advancing will be difficult for them. England are in Group G and then face Panama in Nizhny Novograd and Belgium in Kaliningrad.

        1n 1949 Costa Rica got rid of their standing army, and more recently closed all their zoos. A well educated and peaceful place to live. Lets hope that they have enough fight in them for Russia 2018.