Pickford: England Should Not Fear Anyone

Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is dismissing the idea that England could do themselves a favour by missing out on top spot in their World Cup group in Russia.

The Three Lions are preparing to face Belgium in their final Group G contest on Thursday (7pm), with the two teams locked together on six points and sharing identical goals for and against records.

There is a school of thought which suggests the team finishing second will encounter a more straightforward passage to next month’s final in Moscow.

But Pickford, who is the youngest goalkeeper to represent England at a World Cup finals, insists Gareth Southgate’s men are determined to maintain the momentum gained from opening victories over Tunisia and Panama.

The 24-year-old pointed to his country’s form since they qualified for the tournament, primarily an unbeaten sequence against powerhouse quartet Germany, Brazil, Holland and Italy, as evidence that England have no reason to fear anyone.

“Our mentality is to win every game we play,” said Pickford, who moved to Goodison Park from Sunderland last summer in a British-record transfer deal for a goalkeeper.

“I feel that if we win every game it just keeps building momentum to keep going in the tournament.

“We know Belgium are a tough opponent and we need to be on our A-game to get the win and I feel… we want to win every game so we cannot be looking into that (the consequences of the result).

“It does not matter who we play next because to get as far as you can, to get to the final, you have to play these top teams, so if we play them early, that is how it is going to be.

“Before the World Cup started we faced four of the top 10 in the world, held our own and played very good football and kept clean sheets as well.

“We are ready to face these big teams and know how good we are and what to expect from ourselves.”

Pickford made his Three Lions debut in the 0-0 Wembley draw with World Champions Germany back in November. He followed up his flawless outing at the national stadium with another clean sheet in a 1-0 win in Holland on a March night when Pickford’s impressive footwork and distribution put him in pole position in the race for the nation's number one jersey this summer.

The Wearsider, who hogged the major prizes at Everton's end-of-season awards night, won plenty of plaudits for his composed displays in England’s successes over Tunisia and Panama and has his fingers crossed he will get the nod to start again in the meeting with Roberto Martinez’s Belgium. 

Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane is similarly hopeful of lining up in Kaliningrad as he bids to remain at the front of a loaded field in the chase for the tournament’s Golden Boot.

Kane struck both goals as Tunisia were beaten 2-1 and then added a hat-trick in the 6-1 rout of World Cup debutants Panama. Two of 24-year-old Kane’s goals against the Panamanians were conclusively dispatched from the penalty spot and Pickford confessed even he might have struggled to get a glove on the forward’s scorching 12-yard efforts.

“You have to do a lot of guessing [when facing penalties] but the power behind it and the accuracy... both pens were the same and when Harry is finishing like that there is no chance," said Pickford.

“He is a top forward for starters, that is his main game – finishing. I was watching him from my end of the pitch and his two penalties were top drawer.

“It is so tough to call who is going to play because the ability in the squad is unbelievable and that is what will take us as far as we can go.

“It is a team game, there are 23 players and all 23 who are in the squad are fighting for their places.”

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