By Anis Bazza
Last Updated: 5th July 2018
England are EVS to keep their first clean sheet of the 2018 World Cup against Sweden after a brilliant Jordan Pickford save inspired to them to a round of 16 victory over Colombia.
The Everton keeper, who came in for criticism earlier in the tournament, received rapturous praise for his superhuman efforts, which included a spectacular save from Mateus Uribe’s half-volley in injury-time.
Pickford then went on to make a crucial save from the same player in the penalty shoot-out resulting in England’s first ever spot-kicks win at a World Cup.
The odds of Gareth Southgate’s men progressing in another twelve-yard lottery against the Scandinavians is betting at 9/1.
Pickford silences critics with Colombia display
The 24-year old had received criticism from an unexpected source earlier in the tournament, when Premier League rival and fellow goalkeepers’ union member Thibaut Courtois suggested his diminutive stature had played a part in Belgium’s winner against England.
Discussing Adnan Januzaj’s goal in the group stage, Courtois claimed he “would’ve caught it”.
“The goalkeeper is 10 cm smaller than me,” he went on to tell Belgian outlet Voetball24, “he was too busy throwing his legs in the air.”
After his match-winning performance against Los Cafeteros, Pickford was full of confidence in his ability, saying:
“I’ve got power and agility,” Pickford told ITV Sport, “I don’t care if I’m not the biggest keeper because it’s about being there in the moment and making the save, and I was”.
Our betting tip is England to keep a clean sheet against Sweden at 19/20.
There is cause for optimism that England can record their first clean sheet of the World Cup against Blågult, given Gareth Southgate’s men kept seven clean sheets in 10 games prior to the World Cup.
Of the four goals they have conceded in Russia, one was a penalty (Tunisia), another was a consolation (Panama) and Belgium’s goal came in what was essentially a B-team fixture.
Sweden have struck six times so far but of those; two were penalties and one was an own goal, while the winner against Switzerland came from a wicked deflection.
Anis grew up supporting Manchester City but found joy and solace across Europe’s major football leagues. Increasingly passionate about NBA, he is interested in and has written extensively about many different aspects of sport across the years, previously working at Sky Sports News and Sport360 newspaper in Dubai. He studied Sport Journalism at University but spent a large portion of his academic years building City Watch instead - the largest independent Manchester City Twitter account and website.