Jordan Pickford had a special water bottle covered with details of every Colombian player’s penalty habits to help him play a decisive role in England’s historic World Cup shoot-out victory, it has been revealed.
The Everton goalkeeper made a tremendous one-handed save to deny Carlos Bacca during the nerve-wracking spot-kicks on Tuesday night, allowing Eric Dier to step up and book the Three Lions’ place in the quarter-final.
Manager Gareth Southgate has spoken about how much practice has gone into his side’s penalty-taking at the tournament, with the players keen to put an end to a run of three consecutive World Cup shoot-out defeats.
Now backup keeper Jack Butland has revealed just how canny Pickford was in his own preparation, with his teammate having scrawled notes all over a water bottle and taken it with him to the goal.
“The night before the game we all sat down – the keepers, goalie coach and the analysts – and went over everything that could possibly come up,” he said.
“We watched a bunch of penalties and we all came to our own individual conclusions, which all matched up and gave us confidence and belief in what we were going to do. There were no nerves or worries.”
In a bid to ensure opposition number one David Ospina would not catch sight of the cheeky tactic, Pickford wrapped the bottle in a towel.
Butland admitted he was worried the Colombian might be tempted to grab a sip and end up noticing the notes, but they managed to get away with it.
“It was just our way of preparing for each and every penalty taker,” Butland added.
“It can be difficult and you don’t want to be looking back and forth to the sideline, discussing which way you should be diving and what you’re going to do.
“The night before we set out what we expected, what we believed and just had some little reminders there. We were prepared and it paid off.”
Despite the confidence boost, Butland said he was hopeful England would not have to navigate any further penalty shoot-outs during the rest of their time in Russia.
Next up is Sweden in the last eight on Saturday, which kicks-off in Samara at 3pm UK time.