It was the save heard all over England when Jordan Pickford managed to get a hand to Carlos Bacca’s penalty meaning Eric Dier had a chance to put the Three Lions into a World Cup quarter final for the first time in 12 years.
The Spurs midfielder duly delivered, becoming an instant national hero along with the young Everton goalkeeper, who is beginning to answer his critics.
Thibaut Courtois’s dig at Pickford might be part of the off-field mind games but the 24-year-old felt it needed answering in the best possible way. His magnificent leaping save to deny Colombia’s Mateus Uribe an equaliser concluded a near perfect performance from the goalkeeper, who has had to face detractors pointing to his size being detrimental to his abilities. That said, he’s still over six feet in height.
Pickford became the first Everton player to keep goal for the national team since Gordon West in 1969 when he made his debut against Germany at Wembley in November 2017. He kept a clean sheet as the team’s played out a goalless draw. This followed a call-up in 2016 when he was reserve keeper for the World Cup 2018 qualifier against Slovenia.
The shot-stopper, who grew up in Tyne and Wear and progressed through the youth team ranks at Sunderland, was no stranger to the national team when he got his first team debut. He had previously represented England at all youth levels from 16 to 21.
Prior to establishing himself in the Premier League, he had stints on loan at Darlington, Burton, Bradford and Preston amongst others, where fans saw first-hand his agile mobility and powerful left foot (which would later create a few goals for Jermain Defoe in Sunderland’s first team).
Following a strong season at the Stadium of Light in 2016-2017 when he took over from previous number one Vito Mannone, a year in which he also developed a more all-round game, including a greater confidence to catch or clear high balls to complement his shot-stopping abilities, Pickford was the subject of a big money move to Everton.
It hasn’t been easy at Everton. Pickford was one of several new players brought in at Goodison Park but, whereas others have faltered, he has remained one of the club’s reliable performers. That he’s been able to edge ahead of the equally impressive Jack Butland in manager Gareth Southgate’s eyes is indicative of Pickford’s technical qualities and strength of mind.
He’s also good with the ball at his feet. David Moyes once commented that it’s like watching a top midfielder. That makes him a perfect fit in Southgate’s side, the manager’s tactical approach favouring ball-carrying defenders.
Just how important Jordan Pickford’s role will be in keeping England in Russia remains to be seen but his performance against Colombia has everyone in England feeling optimistic that the Three Lions can at least progress to the semi-final.
It might be more difficult betting on who is going to proceed to the final in the opposite side of the draw. Some tips from Betfair will help you decide between France, Uruguay, Belgium and Brazil, but England have to count themselves as strong favourites to contest the biggest game in international football. Sweden are up next for the Lions, followed by either Russia or Croatia.
The talents of this young Everton keeper are his agility and strength, as exemplified by his penalty save during the shoot-out when a strong hand ensured Carlos Bacca’s spot-kick never found the back of the net. He forms the backbone of a so-far impressive defensive unit that’ll see a different sort of challenge against Sweden.