There is a clip of Jordan Pickford making the rounds on social media that has comforted some since Sunday night, acting like a balm to the heart. The England goalkeeper faces Italy’s fifth and possibly last penalty kick in the fateful shootout, knowing he must stop Jorginho from scoring in order to prevent the 55-year injury from turning into 56th and beyond. of the.
In the clip, ripped from the BBC cover, Pickford bares his teeth and shakes his head – looking like the boy in your elementary school who loved to set fire to and rip off insect limbs – but out of nowhere he finds a moment of serenity, then articulates the words “no problem” to himself, and a few seconds later, he saves the penalty.
Sorry everyone, but that’s not quite what it sounds. From the perspective of the Wembley press box, you could tell that Pickford wasn’t getting angry but was actually talking to referee Bjorn Kuipers, who is out of sight in the TV footage but had moved to Pickford in that moment and spoke to him, presumably reminding him to stay on his line.
However, when the legend becomes a fact, print the legend. And really, there is no need to tear the ass any further from a moment that could have gone down in the annals of English football history to be played and replayed for years to come, but which had a lifespan. of just 47 seconds.
Maybe we should have known. It’s hard for a team to miss two of their first four penalties and win a shootout. That thought will have crossed Pickford’s head at those times. Jorginho’s previous penalty – five days earlier, in the same Wembley goalmouth, rolled down the lower right corner to earn a place in that final – will have crossed his mind as well.
Pickford would also have been aware, however, that it’s not often a goalkeeper who makes two out of five saves and loses a shootout. Although he has already denied Andrea Belotti, it wasn’t just a save he absolutely had to make to keep England’s Euro 2020 hopes alive, but it also had the potential to provide a decisive change in momentum and overthrow the whole shootout.
There was a sense of inevitability surrounding Jorginho’s kick, given his poise against Spain in the semi-final and his exemplary career record on the spot, which made him all the more noticeable when Pickford pushed his attempt against the post and rallied the second time around to ask, taking advantage of the fortune that had eluded him in the rush to prevent Leonardo Bonucci’s equalizer.
With almost certain defeat, Pickford did not take the victory but a sudden sense of possibility. While Wembley applauded the reprieve, it didn’t feel like match point in Italy but, of course, it still was. Bukayo Saka bravely stepped in and it is his kick, rather than the Pickford save, that will be remembered best. It’s hard for a team to miss three of their first five penalties and win a shootout, no matter how well the goalie is playing.
Still, this summer has been a triumph for the England goalkeeper. Aside from a faltering performance in the semi-finals when targeted by the Danish press and on set pieces, he played well in every game. Overall, there have been few moments of the insane eccentricity seen at Everton in the first half of the season. Instead, there was calm, poise and, most importantly, absolute competence.
Gareth Southgate looks like Pickford has only ever delivered good performances internationally. “I thought he had a brilliant tournament,” the England manager said in his debriefing on Monday morning, his eyes teary. “The number of times I’ve sat here and his place on the team has been questioned, he’s consistently delivered for us. This tournament, I think, has been his best run of performances for England and he should be extremely proud of it. “
There is no “Golden Glove” equivalent to the European Championship, although Pickford would have won it if there had been one, and although Southgate gives the collective credit for having conceded only two. times in this tournament rather than just defense, Pickford’s role in this cannot be underestimated. “Of course the goalkeeper played a big role in that,” he said. “Two shootout stops. He couldn’t do more to keep the ball out of our net. It is always the starting point for any goalkeeper. He had a really exceptional tournament. “
What is he also the best goalkeeper of Euro 2020? Gianluigi Donnarumma was named tournament’s best player after a steady month, capped off by England’s two shots stoppage in the shootout. Pickford saved as many Italians, while conceding fewer goals and keeping more clean sheets. The difference is obviously that Donnarumma won and Pickford lost. He still would have needed another save – or an Italian miss – if Saka had scored. He could easily have been in Saka’s place too. He was down to take the sixth penalty.
But even so, for the 47 seconds after that brilliant stop, he felt like he could write his name in history. Instead, through no fault of his own, he will be forgotten.