Football World Cup 2018

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England set to host warm-up fixtures against Nigeria and Costa Rica ahead of FIFA World Cup 2018 – Firstpost

London: England added fellow World Cup qualifiers Nigeria and Costa Rica to their pre-World Cup friendlies schedule on Wednesday.

Gareth Southgate’s side will play Nigeria at Wembley on 2 June and Costa Rica at Leeds United’s Elland Road stadium on 7 June as they prepare for the summer tournament in Russia.

England's Harry Kane, (R), Eric Dier, (C) and Harry Winks (L) walk during a national football team training session at the Tottenham Hotspur Training Ground in Enfield, north London on October 4, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / OLLY GREENWOOD / / NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE

England will start their World Cup campaign against Tunisia. AFP

England topped their group in qualifying and coach Southgate sees the Nigerians and Costa Ricans as ideal preparation for two of their first round opponents Tunisia and debutants Panama.

“We’ve mostly played European opposition up to now and the Brazil game (a 0-0 draw in a friendly in November) acted as a reminder that we need to challenge ourselves in different ways as a team,” said Southgate.

“We’re going into a World Cup where we will play African and Central American opposition so we get that with the games against Nigeria and Costa Rica, but it’s not just about the games we’ve got in the group but hopefully beyond that as well.

“We want to expose the team to different styles and different experiences.”

England – whose best World Cup performance since the winning the tournament in 1966 was a semi-final penalty shootout loss to West Germany in 1990 – already have Netherlands and Italy, two giants of the world game who failed to qualify for Russia lined-up for friendlies in March.

Southgate’s team begins its campaign against Tunisia in Volgograd on 18 June. They then play Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on 24 June before concluding the group stage against Belgium four days later in Kaliningrad.

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