Phil Jagielka says Jordan Pickford’s penalty heroics against Colombia prove the Everton goalkeeper is the “right choice” as England’s number one.
Pickford saved brilliantly from Carlos Bacca, paving the way for Eric Dier to convert the spot kick which propelled the Three Lions to a World Cup quarter-final tie with Sweden.
The 24-year-old had already produced a fabulous fingertip stop to keep out Colombia midfielder Mateus Uribe’s spectacular dipping drive in the closing seconds of normal time.
Defender Yerry Mina powered home a header from the resultant corner to send the contest into extra-time and then penalties.
“When the opportunity arose to make a big save, Jordan put out a big, strong left arm and it was fantastic for him,” Jagielka told evertonfc.com.
“You could tell he was frustrated not to get there a few times but sometimes you have to take your hat off to the penalty taker.
“Regardless of whether he is playing for England or in a training game he sets himself really high standards and wants to become as good as he can possibly be.
"His career trajectory is going up and up and up. He has had a good tournament and proven it was the right choice to make him England number one.
“I was gutted for him when he made a ‘worldie’ save (from Uribe) and Colombia went and scored from the corner.
“You could tell emotionally the lads were a little bit drained after that but they did so well to get the job done.”
Everton captain Jagielka has experienced both sides of the coin when it comes to penalty shootouts.
His winning kick against Manchester United in the 2009 FA Cup semi-final provided a personally cathartic moment after the centre-back's effort was saved against Fiorentina the previous year when Everton exited the UEFA Cup at the last-16 stage.
Jagielka was also part of England’s first-choice team at the World Cup in Brazil four years ago and has 40 Three Lions caps.
And he insists a combination of factors would have ramped-up the pressure on Pickford and his teammates in Tuesday night’s Moscow shootout.
“The pressure normally increases in the quarter and semi-finals but the way the draw is (England would face either Russia or Croatia in the last four should they eliminate Sweden) and how everyone is talking, and to have conceded in the 93rd minute, made the situation more pressurised than it would typically be in that round of the tournament," said Jagielka.
"We have not won too many penalty shootouts or got through too many knockout games and it was important the boys got over the line.
“Penalty shootouts are not nice. They are only nice when you go and win them. The emotion when you do win them is fantastic and hopefully that will add to what seems to be a very good team spirit in the England camp.”
Jagielka says Everton’s players are united behind Pickford and Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions' World Cup bid, with the last-eight game against the Swedes set for 3pm in Samara on Saturday. Pickford, England's youngest ever World Cup finals number one, has impressed throughout the tournament in Russia.
His distribution has been characteristically excellent, with the former Sunderland player's 33 successful long passes ranking him third among the competition's goalkeepers in that category. His 55 per cent long-pass success rate outstrips that of any of his 'keeping counterparts.
And Jagielka expects his teammate to return home motivated to improve even further on his first Everton campaign, which concluded with Pickford sweeping the board at the Club’s end-of-season awards in May.
“It is great that Gareth Southgate has given him the number one jersey and stuck with him and he is doing a very good job,” added Jagielka.
“We have had some contact with him but try to leave him to it a bit as well. He will have plenty of text messages and a lot going on.
“But we are having group chats and the boys have been sending him ‘well done’ messages. He knows he has the support of everyone at Everton. He will be on cloud nine at the moment and hopefully will be there for as long as possible.
“It is great and he wants to keep going and going. He will come back raring to go and wanting to keep this form going.
“He had a fantastic season for us and will be looking to build on that.”