England are through to the last eight of the World Cup after beating Colombia 4-3 on penalties on Tuesday night. The teams could not be separated after 90 minutes after Harry Kane opened the scoring from the penalty spot before Yerry Mina scored a stoppage-time equaliser to force a shootout.
England had never previously won a World Cup penalty shootout, so Gareth Southgate’s men made history. The hero of the shootout was Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who saved Carlos Bacca’s penalty before Eric Dier scored the decisive penalty kick.
Pickford criticised for Belgium defeat
England suffered a 1-0 loss against Belgium in their last group game, which in the end benefitted the Three Lions immensely. The one goal scored that day from Adnan Januzaj was a superb strike, yet for some reason, Pickford received ridiculous criticism for the goal.
All of a sudden, the 24-year-old has small arms and is not tall enough, or he went to save the ball with the wrong hand. Even opposite number Thibaut Courtois decided to comment on Pickford, saying he would have saved the effort because he is taller.
The Chelsea ‘keeper is highly-rated, yet he made a blunder in the Japan game and in the last year has been poor by the standards he previously set. He may well be more careful about criticising opposition players in the future.
Young and still learning the game
The debate over who should be England’s number one in Russia raged before the tournament kicking off. In reality, all three goalkeepers in the squad are young for goalkeepers and inexperienced. However, they were better selections than the more experienced Joe Hart.
Jordan Pickford got the nod as number one, as he is considered better with the ball at his feet than his two colleagues. At 24-year-olds, he is England youngest ever goalkeeper at a World Cup. The former Sunderland star has also won just seven caps for the national side.
Just two years ago, Pickford was on-loan at Preston North End. He has come a long way in recent seasons. He has received criticism for the number of goals he has conceded in the last few campaigns from certain sections of the media.
However, he was playing behind genuinely awful defences. In reality, the teams he played for during the last two Premier League seasons would have conceded far more goals without him in-between the sticks.
Jordan Pickford is by no means a perfect goalkeeper. However, he is an excellent young goalkeeper with a lot of potential. Yes, Pickford is still learning the game and will become a better player with age and experience. He is learning on the job, and for the experience he possesses, he is doing an excellent job for England.
Next up for England is Sweden
Jordan Pickford and his England teammates now face Sweden in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, a game the Three Lions are 10/11 favourites to win.
Sweden will not be easy opponents. England boss Gareth Southgate will not let his team become complacent, as Janne Andersson’s side has proven to be one of the surprise-packages of the competition. However, the Scandinavians will be far more England’s sort of opponents than Colombia. There will be less nonsense and gamesmanship from the Swedes, who are a disciplined and well-drilled team.
It is a fantastic chance for both teams to make it to the last-four of a World Cup for the first time in a long time. England have not made the World Cup semi-finals since 1990 when they were defeated by arch-nemesis Germany on penalty kicks. Meanwhile, Sweden made it to the last-four back in USA ’94.
For all the criticism of Jordan Pickford, the Everton goalkeeper could still have a crucial role to play in England’s World Cup campaign. He has the courage, the character and determination overcome that often ridiculous criticism.
When England needed a hero, Pickford produced when it mattered, and I have no doubts he will do it a lot in the near future for both club and country.
Was the recent criticism of Jordan Pickford unfair?
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