Jordan Pickford is primed and ready for England’s World Cup quarter-final to go all way as the goalkeeper looks to tame France and the tournament’s “rascal” ball.
Gareth Southgate’s men take on the reigning world champions in a blockbuster quarter-final clash at Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday evening.
France are favourites against an English side that has kept three straight clean sheets, with Pickford only conceding in the opener against Iran due to uncharacteristic sloppiness and a contentious late penalty.
The Everton goalkeeper – number one at a third major tournament – has produced some big saves at key times and cannot wait to line up between the sticks in Al Khor.
“Tournament football, getting in the latter stages now and the levels are always going to go up,” Pickford said.
“Every game we prepare for is always going to be the same, to be the best as a team, to keep a clean sheet, and build as a team.
“We know it is a step up in opponents, some top-quality individuals, but they are also a top side really. We are prepared for them and ready for them.”
Pickford said he was “still a young pup” when he made his England debut in November 2017 and feels like he has matured greatly during the ups and downs in his career since.
“I’m not afraid to speak about it when I started using a psychologist a couple of years ago,” he said. “I felt that’s benefited massively my career.
“I know it is not for everybody but I can only speak on behalf of myself. That’s helped me massively for calmness. Just a different intake of myself really.
“For me, penalty shootouts I’ve got my same process which I do all the time, and in individual penalty I’m facing I will do the same thing.
“I don’t change my process and hopefully I go the right way and execute the save. You can do research but it is about executing your process, your dive on the night on the shootout.”
Pickford saved a spot-kick in the last-16 shootout win against Colombia in 2018 and did the same against Switzerland the following year, before saving two of Italy’s efforts in the Euro 2020 final.
The 28-year-old attempts to reset after each penalty during shootouts and will be ready if it goes down to the wire in Al Khor.
Japan and Spain both failed with three penalties in their shootout exits in the last 16, while Brazil saw one saved another hit a post in Friday’s quarter-final exit to Croatia.
Asked if there was a reason for so many missed spot-kicks in Qatar, Pickford said: “The balls are a bit rascal, definitely.
“The balls are a bit different to what I’m used to in the Premier League with the Nike ball at my club. They’re definitely a bit different.
“But I wouldn’t say so with regards to saving a penalty. I think the Morocco v Spain goalkeeper, Bono the Morocco goalkeeper made some very good saves.
“But some people might say they weren’t as good penalties. But you’ve still got to execute that save and I think that’s what the goalkeepers have been doing.
“They’re called Speedshells, so there’s your clue. They are just a bit different. They’re just a different ball.
“Personally you get used to them the longer you play with them. You play with a Premier League ball, a Nike ball, every game in the Premier League and use this Adidas ball straight off the back of the Premier league ball.
“It always takes a bit of adjusting with a different type of ball and a different manufacturer. But it’s something I’m used to and it’s fine now.”