He may not be too big in stature, but the English goalkeeper is making a big name for himself in Russia. After producing three world-class saves against Sweden in the Quarter Finals, he not only took his side to their first ever semi-final since 1990 but also became the youngest English goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet at the World Cup and this from a man who on Saturday made only his 8th appearance at the World Cup. For a match England largely controlled in winning 2-0, the fact Pickford was named man-of-the-match underlined his contribution to ensuring the Three Lions are still involved in the closing stages.
"Semi-finals? I wasn't born in 1990, so I will take that."
Jordan Pickford 👏
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) July 8, 2018
It has truly been a remarkable week for the 24-year-old. A week where he won England’s first ever penalty shootout and later in the Semi-Finals pulled off a fantastic display and won the man of the match for his efforts.
“This is what football’s all about, being on the big stage,” said Pickford. “I don’t put myself under any pressure, I embrace the moment and play at the moment.”
“Nothing fazes me, the pitch is always going to be the same, same lines, same goal height, it’s just a game of football.”
Pickford has not only impressed everyone with his shot stopping skills but has also proven to be very commanding and has the ability to control his defence well. Something that the best of goalkeeper’s lack. The likes of Shilton, Gordan Banks or David Seaman would have been proud of Pickford’s display.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) July 7, 2018
Yet, for a country with a rich tradition of goalkeeping greats, there were huge doubts over who Gareth Southgate would select between the sticks in Russia. Joe Hart started for Southgate in qualifying but paid for his poor form in a season on loan at West Ham to miss out on the squad completely.
But one of the major reasons for Southgate selecting Pickford over Butland and Pope was not only his shot stopping but also his distribution skills that are key to the way England set up.
“Pickford’s distribution was superb and he saves with 20 minutes to go crucial,” said Southgate. “He is the prototype of what the modern goalkeeper should be.”
Jordan Pickford is having himself a World Cup ✋ pic.twitter.com/CpFgYWDYv9
— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 7, 2018
Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois appeared to question Pickford’s height for a top class goalkeeper at 6ft 1ins (1.85 meters) tall. But the giant Chelsea stopper later clarified that he too is a big fan of Pickford.
“I never mocked his height, he is a great goalkeeper. I want to make that clear,” Courtois said after his own stellar performance against Brazil helped Belgium reach the semi-finals.
“I would never do that to another goalkeeper I just meant that being 15 centimeters taller, I would have got the ball,” Courtois said.
Whatever said and done, what Courtois failed to notice when he made the comment about Pickford’s height is that he makes up for his lack of height with his speed and spring around his goal.
Lost among the drama of the tense clash with Colombia was arguably the save of the tournament from Mateus Uribe’s blistering long-range effort seconds before the South Americans’ stoppage-time equalizer.
“I don’t care if I’m not the biggest keeper,” said Pickford afterward. “I’ve got that power and agility to get around the goal. I’m very good at it.”
Sweden found out just how good as England march on back to Moscow for Wednesday’s semi-final against Croatia and Pickford will be rearing to go as he aims to take the Three Lions all the way.