England Boss Southgate Relishes June 2 Showdown With Nigeria

BY GODWIN AIKIGBE

England manager Gareth Southgate is happy to take Three Lions to Wembley Stadium on Saturday 2 June for an international friendly with Nigeria.

England head north to face Costa Rica at Elland Road in Leeds five days later on Thursday 7 June, as Southgate lines up his final two preparation games ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Russia.

And following the success of the Euro 2016 warm-up games held in Sunderland and Manchester two years ago, the Three Lions boss believes his squad will receive a good send-off from their regular home at Wembley against the three-time African champions.

He told thefa.com: “All of the feedback from the team before Euro 2016 was really positive, the players enjoyed it and it was definitely well received by the public.

“We’re immensely proud to play the majority of our matches at Wembley as our national stadium and it’s always special.

“Equally, it’s nice when we have an opportunity to take the team on the road. We have a huge following in Yorkshire with large numbers of our members and travelling support coming from that area.

“Having been to Manchester and the north east last time, it’s nice to be able to go to Yorkshire for a different experience for everybody.

“We’ve mostly played European opposition up to now and the Brazil game acted as a reminder that we need to challenge ourselves in different ways as a team.

“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 have met Nigeria on two previous occasions at senior level, a 1-0 friendly victory at Wembley in 1994 when David Platt scored the winner, before sharing a goalless draw at the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan.

Nigeria are preparing for their sixth World Cup finals having been drawn in a group with Argentina, Iceland and Croatia.