Jordan Pickford (Everton
and England) aged
Yann Sommer (Borussia
Mönchengladbach and Switzerland) aged
Pickford was making his
nineteenth appearance for England. In the previous year's shootout, he had
saved Colombia's fifth and last kick by diving low, but blocking it with his
up-stretched left hand. The kick previous to that had hit the bar, and of
the three that beat him, the first had gone down the middle as he dived to
the left, the second was hit into the top left corner as Pickford dived low
to his left, and the third sent him the wrong way (he dived to the left).
Pickford had only faced one other penalty for England, diving full length to
the bottom left corner and getting a hand to it, but failing to prevent
Tunisia's equaliser in England's opening match of the previous year's World
Cup in Volgograd. In the 2018-19 season he saved three Premier League
penalties for Everton out of five faced.
Sommer was making his 47th
appearance for Switzerland. Against Poland, three years earlier, he dived
the right way for four of the five penalties, and got his hand to one of
them, but he was unable to stop any of them. In the previous year's World
Cup, he faced a penalty in the 93rd minute against Costa Rica in Nizhny
Novgorod. It hit the bar, but rebounded in off Sommer's head for an own-goal
equaliser. He had conceded three Bundesliga penalties in the 2018-19 season.
Six years earlier, however, he had saved a penalty in a Europa League
quarter-final shootout win for Basel in his native Switzerland, against
Tottenham Hotspur, with another kick going over the bar.
This was a game that England
should have won much earlier. They hit the woodwork three times and
created multiple chances. Callum Wilson had a goal disallowed when he
was caught by VAR pulling Akanji's arm and bringing him to the ground,
in the build-up to the goal. In extra time, Raheem Sterling hit the bar
from a free kick, but England were unable to find that vital
Shootout (England first)
1-0 Maguire fired to the right,
with his right foot, at medium height, as Sommer dived to the left.
Zuber fired into the top left, with his right foot, above Pickford's
2-1 Barkley paused and then gently
chipped the ball to the right of centre with his right foot, as Sommer
Xhaka side-footed, with his left foot, into the bottom left corner, as
Pickford dived to the right.
3-2 Sancho side-footed, with his
right foot, at medium height, and Sommer got a hand to it, but it was
hit too hard and passed into the right-hand corner.
Akanji took a couple of casual, bouncing
strides and then confidently side-footed with power into the top right
corner, with his right foot, as Pickford could only lean in that
direction, on his knees.
Sterling fired, with his right foot, at medium height, into the corner,
where Sommer's touch was, again, not enough to stop it.
Mbabu side-footed, with his right foot, into the bottom left
corner, beyond Pickford's dive.
Pickford fired, with the side of his left
foot, into the top right corner, after leaning to his left and sending
Sommer the wrong way.
Schär gently slotted it to
the left of Pickford, with the side of his right foot, just slightly to
the left of centre, with Pickford having taken a step to the right, and
then diving in vain to the left.
Dier side-footed firmly, with his right foot, into the bottom
right corner, with Sommer only able to lean in that direction from his
stuttered a little at the beginning of his run-up, before hitting it
with the side of his right foot, at medium height to the left, allowing
Pickford to make a full-length diving save, with both hands.
If Drmić had
scored, who would have taken England's seventh penalty?
As Pickford had already taken
a penalty, England would have had five more outfield players to choose
from, as opposed to Switzerland's four. Alexander-Arnold, Gomez and
Walker were primarily defensive players, or creators, with only two
goals between them in the 2018-19 season, but Alli and Wilson would
certainly have been expected to step up to the mark. Alli had scored
twice from the spot against Watford in the Carabao Cup, including the
deciding kick in the shootout. It was only Wilson's third international
appearance, but he had scored 16 goals for club and country (including
one penalty) in the 2018-19 season, though he had also missed a Premier
League spot-kick. Alli and Walker had both been substituted before the
previous year's shootout with Colombia.
Why did England win?
Every element of this shootout was
affected by the confidence of England's players, who had thoroughly
deserved victory in the two hours that preceded the penalty kicks.
Admittedly, it might not have been so obvious if there had been more at
stake than the dubious honour of third place in the UEFA Nations League,
a reward that would only come into play to determine opponents and home
advantage in the semi-finals of the following year's European
Championship qualifying play-offs, should both of these teams fail to
qualify from their groups.
Nevertheless, it was obvious that
a huge weight had been lifted from English shoulders when they had
dispatched Colombia from the previous year's World Cup on penalty kicks.
The Swiss kickers had more international experience than England's, but
three of their most experienced and potent players (Rodriguez, Seferović
and Shaqiri) had been substituted, as had Kane, England's captain (and
winner of the previous year's World Cup Golden Boot). In fact, Eric Dier
was the only player with the experience of taking a penalty in the
previous shootout, so it was especially pleasing that the confidence was
also present in the other five kickers.
Jordan Pickford, of course, became
the hero again, and rightly so. Though he admitted that he was nervous
and hoped not to have to take the fifth kick which was the beginning of
the 'sudden death' situation, he did not show it and appeared to relish
every moment, exuding confidence to the point of wanting to be the
central character. His kick was, arguably, the best of the six, and the
fact that he was the goalkeeper, the success of his kick, struck with
such accuracy and power, was almost guaranteed to damage the confidence
of lingering Swiss hopes.
The kicks of Sancho and Sterling
could be construed as being slightly weaker than the others, but only
because of the fact that Sommer got his hands to them. Both kicks were
too strong for him and this was his second international shootout in
which he had failed to stop a single penalty (eleven in total).
Switzerland had their own
confident takers, but it all came down to the players that were sixth in
line. These are often reluctant individuals, not confident enough to put
themselves down for the first five. However, England had Eric Dier, the
man who had despatched Colombia from the World Cup, and only pushed out
to sixth because of his super-confident goalkeeper.
Drmić couldn't muster the same accuracy. His attempted stutter wasn't
enough to effect the wily Pickford and his kick was at the ideal height,
and not too near the post, for the stopper to push it away with both
hands. Job done!
Two shootout victories in a row is
uncharted territory for England. We're hardly in the German class yet,
but long may it continue!