Following a penalty shootout victory and a quarter-final win over Sweden, England have finally made it to a World Cup semi-final! I couldn’t be happier and it has been great to watch the nation come together and celebrate our team’s success so far.
Morale seems to be really high in the England camp. The last two wins will have done wonders for the team’s confidence. Southgate’s team have gained momentum and grown stronger with every game in this tournament and I hope they can continue it.
They now face their first real test in my opinion as they face Croatia in the semi-final. Croatia have arguably the best midfield in the world and it will certainly be a very tight game. However this is also England’s best chance for a long time to not only get to the final but to win the competition, and the squad will be aware of that. I think if we play to our full potential and improve again as we have done so far we have every chance.
As a goalkeeper, it was fantastic watching Jordan Pickford in the Colombia game, in fact it has been fantastic watching him in every game. There has been a lot of talk when it comes to the youngster and I personally think he has been outstanding. He has grown in stature throughout the tournament and he is constantly improving which is exactly what you want from any player.
I thought the criticism he came under after the Belgium game was quite unnecessary and frankly unwarranted, so I am happy to see that it hasn’t affected him. I think the comments about his height have also been uncalled for. Pickford cannot help how tall he is and I believe he makes up for it with his excellent spring and agility – as he showed with his save just before the Colombia equaliser. I find it really disappointing that fellow professionals choose to criticise another, especially when they play in the same league and could end up playing one another in the final.
When it came to the penalties, I know that Pickford will have gone through a lot of preparation. He will have watched hundreds of penalties. Every player that has ever taken one, he will have watched the score and time of the game to see the importance of the penalty. In high pressure situations players have their go-to penalty and a safety penalty, if you like and Pickford will have trawled through videos and clips to find this.
He clearly rehearsed and did his homework, which is why it was no surprise to see him so calm and collected during the shootout. There were no nerves and it was good to see that the hard work paid off.
Pickford is an excellent goalkeeper and is still very young, I believe he has the potential to be an England regular for a long time.
It has not just been great watching the players and the nation celebrate how far we have come, but this young squad are also inspiring young footballers up and down the country.
I think one thing that will hopefully come from Pickford’s performance is that more Premier League clubs will give young goalkeepers a chance. It is difficult as a young goalkeeper, as normally clubs look for experience, but how do you get the experience if you are not given the chance. I would like to see club’s using goalkeepers of any age if they have the quality and are good enough.
The whole topic of experience has been debated heavily in the build-up to this World Cup. Whilst you’ll never silence the critics and their comments when it comes to experience, at 24-years-old with seven caps for England I think Pickford, along with the rest of the squad are breaking down barriers. With just one more hurdle before that World Cup final, I have every faith that this young squad will make their country proud.