Well, well, well. The secret to England’s penalty shootout success has finally been revealed. Sort of.
Enough time has probably passed now for us to start to talk rationally about England’s dramatic penalty shootout win against Colombia on Tuesday night.
When we’re in the moment, we all accept that a penalty shootout is organised chaos and a bit of a lottery, really. Well, you’re wrong about that.
England made a big deal of letting everyone know that they were practising penalties in the lead up to the tournament. In fact, it was back in March that they started their preparations.
It’s obviously paid off, as England scored 4 out of 5 of their kicks, and Jordan Pickford pulled off a sublime stop to keep out one of their opponent’s kicks. Coupled with a miss from Los Cafeteros, England won their first shootout ever at a World Cup.
Bizarrely, before the shootout, Jordan Pickford was given a new water bottle by the England goalkeeping coach, Martyn Margetson. What’s so strange about that, then? I hear you ask – well, the bottle held the keys to England’s success.
On the side of it was a list of all of the Colombian players and their preferred side to which they put penalties. Clever, clever thinking from the England camp, there.
Pickford did his best to hide the water bottle under a towel ahead of the shootout, but now his trick has been revealed. He told ITV: “I did a lot of research on them for starters. Falcao is the only one who didn’t go his way,”
He continued: “I just set my way and went with power. I’ve got power and agility I don’t care if I’m not the biggest keeper but I’ve got the power and agility to help us get around the goal and I’m very good at it. It’s about making the save and being in the moment.”
As it happens, Pickford himself has been on the receiving end of a trick like this before. England’s Under 21’s were playing against Germany in the European Championships last season when the German goalie pulled a set of cheat sheets out of his sock.
And who could forget Ben Foster producing the iPad to check out Tottenham’s penalty takers preferences during the 2009 League Cup final shootout. He definitely wasn’t just playing Angry Birds.
Whatever Pickford did, he did it well enough for him to become the first England goalkeeper to save a shootout penalty since David Seaman all the way back in 1998.