Jordan Pickford is practising taking penalties and is ‘ready’ to take one against France

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DOHA — Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford says that he is ready to take a penalty for England as well as trying to save them, with England’s quarter-final against France likely to be close and a shootout a realistic eventuality.

Pickford has an excellent record of saving penalties for his country, the hero as England beat Colombia in 2018 to win their first ever World Cup penalty shootout. He also saved two penalties in the Euro 2020 final last year, although it was not enough to take England on to victory.

But the Everton goalkeeper also holds another penalty record for his country. In June 2019, Pickford scored and then saved the decisive penalty against Switzerland in the third place play-off in the Uefa Nations League finals. That made him the first goalkeeper to take a penalty for England in a competitive shootout. He is more than happy to repeat the trick in Qatar.

“I have been practising taking a few as well,” Pickford said on Friday, smiling at the question.

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“You have to be ready for anything. You can’t not practise them, just go into the shootout and think ‘I’ll be alright’. I have to be prepared to take one and I have to be prepared to save them.”

Given he has experience of holding his nerve in such circumstances (albeit a Nations League play-off does not hold the significance of a World Cup knockout match), Pickford may well not be left until the 11th man this time.

“I’ll go wherever the manager tells me to go,” Pickford said. “All I want to do is help the team. If it comes down to it I’ll step up and take one but it’s not my call. It is the manager’s call and the backroom staff.”

Pickford also took time to discuss the official World Cup ball – the Al Rihla. The headline announcement upon its release was the microchip housed inside that would relay information to Video Assisted Refereeing (VAR) officials for offside decisions and allow for the collection of ball movement data.

During the group stage, Uruguay goalkeeper Sergio Rochet claimed that at each tournament, the official balls get harder for goalkeepers and better for strikers. Rochet believed that every goalkeeper would require a period of adaptation because this particular ball had a tendency to move particularly fast through the air. Pickford agrees.

“The balls are a bit rascal, definitely,” he said. “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 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’re just a different ball. You get used to them the longer you play with them. But you play with a Premier League ball, a Nike ball, every game in the Premier League and then 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.”

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