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If Saturday’s quarter-final does go to penalties, and Kylian Mbappe steps up first, he is going to have Jordan Pickford looking right into his eyes. The England goalkeeper described it as “part of my process”, as he gave an insight into the technique that has seen him make saves in all three of the shootouts he’s been involved in for the international team.
Pickford also revealed that he does think the ball is different, but went into detail, putting a different spin – so to speak – on a well-worn tournament story.
“For me, penalty shootouts, I’ve got my same process which I do all the time,” the goalkeeper said. “In each 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 of the shootout.
“I just have a look at them and see how they’re feeling. But they’ve got their process as a penalty taker, and as a goalkeeper I’ve got my process, and it’s whoever comes out on top on that individual penalty.”
Pickford spoke about the research he does, which paid off in terms of penalty saves in the Euro 2020 final against Italy – but not in the result.
“It’s a World Cup, I’ll try to do as much detail as I can. You want to win the game and so do we. There’ll be research. But with the Euros final, I think you can look at the statistics and saving two should win you the tournament. But that’s football. It’s never what the statistics say sometimes. It’s something we’ll learn from, that defeat, and hopefully get better from.
“I’ll have a little reset every time I go to the side [between penalties], but my process is always the same. Hopefully I don’t have to make a save tomorrow. Hopefully we don’t get to penalties. Hopefully we get the win in 90 minutes. But you’ll see with my process it’s always the same. It never changes.”
Pickford also said he’d been practising kicking penalties himself.
“You have to be ready for anything. You can’t not practise them, just go in and think I’ll be alright. I have to be prepared to take one and I’ve got to be prepared to save one.
“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.”
When asked why there had been such a high proportion of penalty misses in Qatar in contrast to previous World Cups, at 39 per cent, Pickford started to talk about the difference of the balls. While he didn’t directly attribute the penalty misses to the new ball, he did insist it was harder to deal with.
“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 [Yassine] Bounou, the Morocco goalkeeper, made some very good saves against Spain. 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.”
When asked to give more detail on the balls, Pickford said: “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.
“I don’t know, it’s a bit weird really. It is just a slightly different type of ball, a different brand, something you have to readjust to straight away. My kicking distance has still been the same but they’re a bit faster. That’s all.”