Jordan Pickford laughed that he was not yet born the last time England reached a World Cup semifinal, as he kept a clean sheet to help the Three Lions past Sweden in Saturday’s quarterfinal.
There had been pre-tournament concerns over Pickford’s inexperience, but the 24-year-old has only conceded four goals in five games in addition to his shootout heroics against Colombia in the last round, to help England reach their first World Cup semifinal in 28 years.
“I think [before] this [semifinal berth] it was 1990 and I wasn’t born for that, so I’ll take that,” Pickford told the BBC. “We have always said take one game, game-by-game, and we can go on and create our own history but it’s now about rest and recovery, but we’ll work hard and our ability should show.”
After a slow first half, Pickford made three saves to keep Sweden from equalising and was named man of the match for his fine performance
“We knew it was going to be difficult against Sweden, we know what they bring to the party and we managed it very well,” Pickford said. “We worked hard and we’re showing our abilities and our mental side of the game.
“You got to be ready from the start, which I was and you’ve got to be alert and that’ll get you in the game straightaway, so after I made that first save, I think it was against [Marcus] Berg with his header about 47 minutes I felt that was me set for the rest of the game.”
Dele Alli, who made England’s lead safe with a second-half header after Harry Maguire’s first-half opener, also had praise for the Everton goalkeeper.
“Jordan Pickford proved in the last game how big he is for this team and we will all be celebrating together,” he said.
Despite his goal, Alli wasn’t overall pleased with his own display and saw room for some personal improvement.
“It’s always nice to score, especially in occasions like this,” the Tottenham player said. “I don’t feel this was my best performance personally on the pitch, but to get a goal in an occasion like this is unbelievable and for the team and the country to get to the semifinal is an amazing feeling.
“It was a real graft out there, but it was important we had belief in the gameplan and to dominate possession. It was important we kept moving the ball quickly and waited for the opportunity.”
Captain Harry Kane said the performance would serve England well going forward, with the Three Lions two wins from lifting the trophy.
“I thought we were fantastic. We faced the long ball — different to what we have faced before — and we’re buzzing with the result,” Kane said.
“We know there is a big game ahead with the semifinal but we are feeling good and we’re confident. We just have to go again. We are enjoying it and we’ve got keep doing what we are doing and make the country proud.”