5 Things we Learned from England 2-1 Nigeria


Gary Cahill and Harry Kane scored in the first half as England ran out 2-1 winners in their penultimate pre-World Cup friendly on Saturday.

The Three Lions will face Costa Rica on Thursday 7th June at Elland Road before they head to Russia for this summer’s tournament.

England’s performance over the West African nation has given them every reason to be confident in progressing further than four years ago when Roy Hodgson’s side were eliminated after only two games.

However, the bookmakers are being realistic with 16/1 Paddy Power World Cup odds on
England lifting the trophy this summer – making them only seventh favourites.

Here are five things we learned from England 2-1 Nigeria:

  • Pace

One thing England were critical of in their qualifying for the 2018 World Cup was how slow they played with the likes of Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier in the middle of the park.

There was no sign of that on Tuesday as the likes of Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard, with Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young bombing on from full-back, played a quick passing game.

The pace and movement shown in attack will certainly be encouraging for both England’s manager and supporters heading over to Russia. Gareth Southgate’s side certainly look more entertaining than the shambles in Brazil four years ago.

  • Set Pieces

England demonstrated a threat from attacking set pieces against Nigeria which included Gary Cahill heading home a corner after only seven minutes.

Set pieces can be the difference between winning and not. Being able to score goals from them will be excellent going into the World Cup.

Both Tunisia and Panama could stack their defences to make it difficult for England to break them down in open play, whilst Belgium can be expected to dominate possession and territory in the final group game.

  • Comfortable Defensively

Southgate will have been disappointed with the freedom several of the Nigerian players had in the build up to their consolation, leading to Alex Iwobi rebounding home at the start of the second half.

However, Jordan Pickford wasn’t tested in the first half and had a relatively comfortable second half after conceding early as the back three and midfield protected the goalkeeper.

  • Alli-Lingard Combination

The combination of Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard in midfield for 67 minutes was notably promising.  The Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United players combined very well to create chances for teammates.

Raheem Sterling was the main benefactor in this but the Manchester City forward really struggled with his finishing at Wembley Stadium.  Sterling has now only scored two goals in his 38 appearances for England. Lingard himself saw an opportunity denied by Nigeria keeper Francis Uzoho diving quickly at his feet.  The 25-year-old himself only has one goal in 11 international appearances.

The Alli-Lingard combination playing an inside forward partnership provided the creativity  England haven’t shown consistently in recent fixtures. Both also recorded a number of goals and assists for their clubs in the Premier League this past season so, if this combination can thrive in Russia then it’s good news for Gareth Southgate and England supporters.

  • England #1

Much discussion over the past couple of months has been about who England’s number one will be for this summer’s tournament.

Joe Hart didn’t make the 23-man squad so there will be a goalkeeper making his international tournament debut later this month.  Stoke City’s Jack Butland had been the initial favourite and the most experienced with seven caps.

However, Jordan Pickford played the full 90 minutes at Wembley in what was only his third appearance for the national team.  The Everton goalkeeper has also been handed the number 1 shirt and is now expected to face Tunisia in two weeks’ time.

We’ll find out when England kick off their 2018 World Cup against Tunisia on Monday 18th June before following group stage games against Panama and Belgium.