Friday 18 October 2019

Pickford saves and scores in shoot-out as England clinch bronze medals

England 0 Switzerland 0 (England win 6-5 on penalties)

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Photo: Tim Goode/PA Wire
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Photo: Tim Goode/PA Wire

Jason Burt

Once again England won a penalty shoot-out, and once again Jordan Pickford was their hero.

Not that finishing third in the Nations League possessed any of the drama, tension, occasion or resonance of beating Colombia in the last 16 of the World Cup last summer, but this is a good habit to continue.

Typing "once again" when it comes to England and shoot-outs usually is followed by the word "lost".

But after decades of anguish, after losing five shoot-outs in-a-row, England have now won two back-to-back for the first time, and it was also the first time they had scored six of their efforts - all six in fact - with Pickford not just saving the decisive kick, but scoring.

By beating Switzerland, England have followed up the fourth place in the World Cup with third place in the new Nations League.

However, Gareth Southgate was not sugar-coating the disappointment of losing the semi-final against the Netherlands, and the calamitous manner of that 3-1 extra-time defeat.

England's Callum Wilson in action with Switzerland's Fabian Schar. Photo: Rafael Marchante/Reuters
England's Callum Wilson in action with Switzerland's Fabian Schar. Photo: Rafael Marchante/Reuters

Edge

There was an edge to his frustration. The England manager wants more.

The shoot-out proved the highlight for England in a mini-finals that promised so much but which slipped away like a missed opportunity.

A bit like the number of missed opportunities here, as England spurned chance after chance and struck the goal frame four times in an uninspiring performance.

England's Raheem Sterling in action. Photo: Rafael Marchante/Reuters
England's Raheem Sterling in action. Photo: Rafael Marchante/Reuters

But this is about building, about momentum and while taking the bronze medal meant so little that there was not even a ceremony, and the awards were left in a bag in the dressing-room for players to pick up on their way out, it was a relief to Southgate that he has another successful shoot-out to look back on.

England's penalties were excellent and that has to be a psychological boost, even if the greater concern was their ineffectiveness in front of goal during the 120 minutes that preceded them against a limited, unambitious Swiss side.

Harry Maguire, Ross Barkley, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling and Eric Dier were England's other England penalty scorers.

The win meant that England finished third in a major tournament for the first time since the European Championships in 1968.

Now they have to break through the next barrier. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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