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Euro 2024: Pickford’s mind games and how England really won



Euro 2024: Pickford's mind games and how England really won

It is no secret by now that the equivalent of Argentina’s Emi Martinez in the Euro 2024 tournament is England’s Jordan Pickford, and if not down to the dot, we can see some similarities in their antics in goal.

In a thrilling quarter-final clash at Euro 2024, the Three Lions goalkeeper once again proved his mettle as a penalty shootout specialist, securing England’s place in the semi-finals with a crucial save against Switzerland’s Manuel Akanji.

The unseen footage from inside the stadium has revealed the psychological warfare and quick thinking that went into Pickford’s heroic moment.

Euro 2024: Pickford's mind games and how England really won

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After a tense 1-1 draw, with Bukayo Saka equalizing shortly after Breel Embolo’s opener, the match proceeded to penalties. England’s penalty takers—Cole Palmer, Jude Bellingham, Saka, Ivan Toney, and Trent Alexander-Arnold—displayed unerring accuracy to clinch a 5-3 shootout victory. The sole miss came from Manchester City defender Akanji, whose effort was thwarted by Pickford.

The BBC’s broadcast captured the essential action but missed the behind-the-scenes tactics employed by Pickford. Shared by presenter Rob Armstrong, exclusive footage from the stands showcased Pickford’s deliberate delay tactics designed to disrupt Akanji’s composure. The Everton stopper meticulously placed his water bottle and towel before engaging in a conversation with referee Daniele Orsato, all part of his strategy to unnerve the Swiss defender.

Central to Pickford’s preparation was a note on his water bottle, advising him to “dive left” for Akanji’s penalty—a decision that paid off spectacularly. Pickford’s save marked his fourth out of 14 penalties in major tournament shootouts, reinforcing his reputation as a clutch performer in high-stakes scenarios.

However, Pickford faced an unexpected challenge during the shootout. Speaking to ITV post-match, he revealed: “Firstly, the referee didn’t let me do my usual process, so I’ve got to adapt… because I like to give the lads the ball. I could only do it for the first time and luckily, I saved it.” This adaptability under pressure highlights Pickford’s mental fortitude and quick decision-making, crucial attributes for a goalkeeper in such critical moments.

Trent Alexander-Arnold sealed the victory with the decisive penalty, setting up a semi-final showdown against the Netherlands, who staged a comeback to defeat Turkey 2-1 in Berlin.