Pickford's practise pays offf
England's hero reflects on both scoring and saving a penalty to help Three Lions seal third-place spot in the Nations League
England hero Jordan Pickford admitted he was a little nervous at taking, rather than saving, a penalty kick in Sunday’s Nations League shootout.
The Three Lions goalkeeper took his team’s fifth spot-kick and scored in convincing style before saving Switzerland’s first sudden death penalty to ensure his side finished in third place in the first ever Nations League competition.
And that came on the back of England being unfortunate not to win the match in 120 minutes, during which they hit the woodwork three times and having a goal ruled out by VAR in the dying stages
"It was a very tough game but I think we showed our character to get through another 120 minutes and then penalties,” said Pickford after his heroics.
"Sometimes it's hard to get up for another game like this, but it showed us how we go and we got better as a team to bounce back.
"We always say just to do what it takes to win a game, so we did that.”
And as for the shootout, following last summer’s World Cup drama against Colombia, the attention was back on the former Sunderland man again...
"I was a bit nervous taking my pen, but I'm not nervous saving them,” he added.
"We practise them consistently when there's a competition and I just pick my spot and manage to be able to get a goal [in practise].
“We'd taken a few lads off who might’ve taken one, so I'm not sure where I was in the pecking order.
"But I've never taken one in a real game, so I was a bit nervous.
"It's what you practise for, to make it easier on the day.
“I'm not telling anyone anything, I'll keep it [the secret] to myself, but it's all about routine I would say.
“If you watch the best penalty takers, people like Harry Kane, they have their own routine so it's about creating your own routine to make sure everything's done to routine.”
This game brings the current campaign to a close, and despite the disappointment of losing their semi-final against the Netherlands prior to Sunday’s game, Pickford is adamant that the whole experience of the week was a worthy one for England.
"The biggest learning curve was Thursday night, you can only learn from defeats,” he said.
"But both of these games have been better for us than two qualifying games and that's massive for us going into the qualifying campaign for the Euros next year.”
Nations League head-to-head
The Three Lions seal third place in the Nations League after a penalty shootout win in Guimaraes
England secured third place in the inaugural UEFA Nations League, after a shootout victory over Switzerland in Sunday’s play-off.
It was nothing less than the Three Lions deserved too, despite being held to a draw over the course of 120 minutes during which they hit the woodwork three times as well as seeing a late goal chalked out after a video review.
And it was Jordan Pickford who was the hero on this occasion, as the Everton goalkeeper both scored from the spot himself before saving Josip Drmic’s sudden death effort.
Gareth Southgate’s men were more than worthy of a win though and they were on the front foot right from the start, almost going ahead within two minutes.
A break down the right ended with Harry Kane chipping an angled effort at goal, only to see it bounce back off the bar after Yann Sommer got the slightest of touches.
Kane then set Raheem Sterling up with a chance, laying a pass off to the winger on the left whose shot was straight at Sommer.
Sterling had another opportunity soon after, when he was inches away from connecting with the excellent Trent Alexander-Arnold’s enticing low cross.
The Liverpool right-back was at it again ten minutes before the break, when another fine cross from the 20-year-old picked out the darting run of Dele but his bullet header flashed over the bar.
Ten minutes after the break, the woodwork came to the rescue of the Swiss again as Danny Rose’s whipped cross was touched past Sommer by Fabian Schar, only for the Newcastle defender to be spared an own goal by the post as it bounced away to safety.
And they could’ve been ahead less than a minute later, when Granit Zhaka’s thumping shot was tipped wide by Pickford.
Southgate introduced Callum Wilson for Kane and the AFC Bournemouth man thought he’d won it for England with six minutes to go.
Sterling’s rapid run and cross from the left ended with Dele’s header coming back off the bar and Wilson was there to smash home the rebound.
But for the second time in two games, a video review denied them as the substitute was adjudged to have committed a foul in the build-up.
Into extra time, England’s frustration continued as Sommer denied Sterling before making a wonderful double save to block another Dele header and then Wilson’s follow-up.
With time running out, England were again denied by the woodwork for a third time, as Sterling’s free-kick over the wall had Sommer beaten only to batter the bar once more as the game went to spot-kicks.
It was a perfect five for both teams too, before Eric Dier held his nerve to score the first sudden death penalty and leave Pickford to save from Drmic to ensure a winning end to the season.
- Crosses: 18
- Chances created: 7
- Passes: 79