WORLD CUP 2018 | England’s maiden shoot-out victory

Crucial save no small matter: Pickford

Left: Jordan Pickford gets his left hand to the ball, saving from the Colombian Carlos Bacca. It was the turning point in Tuesday's penalty shoot-out - and a moment of vindication for the 1.85m goalkeeper, who was labelled England's weak link by form
Above: Jordan Pickford gets his left hand to the ball, saving from the Colombian Carlos Bacca. It was the turning point in Tuesday's penalty shoot-out - and a moment of vindication for the 1.85m goalkeeper, who was labelled England's weak link by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Left: Jordan Pickford gets his left hand to the ball, saving from the Colombian Carlos Bacca. It was the turning point in Tuesday's penalty shoot-out - and a moment of vindication for the 1.85m goalkeeper, who was labelled England's weak link by form
Above: Liverpool's Jordan Henderson was the only Englishman who failed from the spot, foiled by Arsenal's David Ospina.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Jordan Pickford has said that his crucial penalty save was the perfect riposte to claims that he is too small to be a top-class goalkeeper.

The 24-year-old Everton custodian, who is 1.85m tall, was mocked for his size by his rival Thibaut Courtois (1.99m) after last week's defeat by Belgium.

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had also described Pickford as a "weak link" before Tuesday's last-16 win over Colombia.

Yet he denied Carlos Bacca, creating a platform for Eric Dier to score the decisive penalty and England to win their first World Cup shoot-out 4-3, after the game ended 1-1 at the end of extra time.

He said that he and the England goalkeeper coach Martyn Margetson had thoroughly analysed the Colombian penalty-takers before the match.

"We did our research on them for starters, with Marg and the analysis staff," Pickford said.

"I had a fair feeling. (Radamel) Falcao was the only one who didn't go his way. But it's set, react, and go power. I've got power and agility.

"I don't care if I'm not the biggest 'keeper. I've got that power and agility to get around the goal.

"It's all about the set position and I got a hand to it. I was in a massive whirlwind but I saved it with my left hand. I've been criticised for going with my top hand, but, as long as you save it, that's all that counts.

"I might be young, but I've got good mental strength and experience and I used that.

"We knew if it had to go to penalties, we were capable of winning. It gives us belief to go into the Sweden (quarter-final) game and we will get straight back to business."

Dier said that England kept calm and did not panic even after his side conceded a Yerry Mina stoppage-time goal following Harry Kane's goal from the penalty spot in the 57th minute.

"To get knocked down like we did is difficult to come back from it," Dier said. "We knew what we had to do and we stayed calm. We never panicked. We were ready for that (shoot-out)."

It was just England's second penalty shoot-out win in eight attempts in major tournaments, and former defender and ITV pundit Gary Neville said English football might not have been able to withstand another defeat on penalties.

He added that England manager Gareth Southgate's biggest job now may be calming his players down before Saturday's quarter-final against Sweden.

"We as a nation have suffered too much. We needed it so badly. It is brilliant to see another team out there suffering after a penalty shoot-out. I don't mean that in a nasty way," he said.

"The belief in the squad will be so big now, if anything Gareth's job will be to bring them down, but he has got to let them enjoy this tonight."

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2018, with the headline 'Crucial save no small matter: Pickford'. Print Edition | Subscribe