Jordan Pickford says World Cup semi-finalists England are aiming to “create our own history” following a commanding quarter-final win over Sweden.
Everton goalkeeper Pickford put in a man-of-the-match display as his side saw off the Swedes 2-0 to book a last-four spot for the first time since 1990.
The 24-year-old is one of 17 members of Gareth Southgate 23-strong squad who was not born when England were defeated on penalties by Germany at Italia ’90.
But goals from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli either side of half-time clinched victory for Southgate’s team in Russia – the third time in nine attempts England have prevailed at this stage of the competition.
Pickford’s first-half contribution was all about his immaculate distribution – a series of pinpoint passes sprayed out to Kieran Trippier on the right particularly notable.
But two minutes after the break the Everton man set the tone for a wonderful individual performance when he flew to his left to save one handed from Marcus Berg.
Viktor Claesson was the next Swede frustrated by Pickford when the winger’s low, 62nd-minute strike was repelled by the Three Lions' number one, showing tremendous reactions to get down to his right and beat the ball away.
And Berg was incredulous when he was thwarted for a second time, the striker’s rising effort apparently destined for the roof of the net until Pickford threw up a hand and finger-tipped the ball over the top.
“You have to be ready from the start, which I was,” said Pickford. “You have to be alert and that gets you in the game straightaway.
“After I made the first save from Berg’s header on 47 minutes, that was me set for the game.
“It is a great result, we knew it would be difficult and what Sweden would bring to the party. We managed it very well and worked hard on it [negating Sweden’s strengths].
“We have always said we would take it game by game. We can go and create our own history but now it is about resting and recovering and looking forward to the next game.”
Pickford was winning only his eighth cap against Sweden and will be the first Everton player since Ray Wilson in 1966 to represent England in a World Cup semi-final.
Indeed, Pickford will be only the third man to have the honour of being between the posts for the Three Lions at such an advanced stage of the competition. Gordon Banks ultimately lifted the trophy 52 years ago, while Bobby Robson’s side went down to Germany in Turin in 1990.
Pickford, though, insists England will not get ahead of themselves. The semi-final comes around quickly, with Luka Modric-inspired Croatia, penalty shootout victors over hosts Russia, awaiting in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday evening (7pm).
“It will not be easy but we will work hard and hopefully our ability will show,” continued Pickford.
“Our ability and mental side of the game came out against Sweden.
“The atmosphere was quality and the England fans are different class. We really enjoyed playing and when the fans are like that it makes it even better – and makes us so much more relaxed.
“The lads will be getting massaged and recovered, now. It is a quick turnaround and it is all about being professional. That is what we do well and shows the strength of our mental approach.
“We will recover tomorrow, then get ready for the game in four days."