Jordan Pickford has become a national hero in England over the past week or so following his performances in the World Cup knockout stages.
The 24-year-old pulled off a contender for best save of the tournament in the Round of 16 against Colombia before making a crucial stop against Carlos Bacca in the penalty shoot-out.
In last weekend’s quarter-final against Sweden, meanwhile, Pickford produced a Man of the Match performance, puling off a string of fine stops to help his team record a 2-0 victory.
Gareth Southgate’s decision to use Pickford as his number one keeper this summer now looks like a masterstroke.
Pickford won the battle for the No. 1 jersey ahead of Jack Butland, Nick Pope and Joe Hart, who was left out of Southgate’s 23-man squad altogether.
Although it’s been an excellent World Cup for the Everton goalkeeper, there were a couple of unconvincing moments in the 1-0 defeat against Belgium, whose keeper Thibaut Courtois mocked his English counterpart’s lack of height after the match.
Courtois was reported to have said Pickford is "10cm smaller than me" and he "would have caught" the shot by Adnan Januzaj which resulted in Belgium’s winning goal.
Courtois later explained his comments
However, Courtois made a point of explaining his comments on British TV after Belgium’s victory over Brazil last week.
"This thing about Jordan - I want to say and clarify it because I heard a lot of stuff. I never mocked his height, I want to make that clear, because I would never mock the height of a goalkeeper,” he said.
"I only said that, because he got a touch, I would have saved it because I am 15cm taller, but I never mocked his height.
"He is a great goalkeeper. I want to make that clear."
Pickford finally issues his full response
Pickford has now issued a full response to Courtois’ unnecessary jibe and follow-up comments and, if anything, it sums up his character and impressive mentality.
“I would not let that affect me,” he is quoted as saying by The Sun. "It is just a game of football. I don't let anything like that (criticism) affect me.
“I'm just a normal lad. It's only football.”
Well said, Jordan. You need a thick skin to play football at the highest level and it seems Pickford possesses that in abundance. He’s not concerned what Courtois or anybody else has to say about his qualities as a goalkeeper.
He added: "A lot of people think I am only young, but it is my second season in the Premier League, and I do not feel as if I am far away from guys like that (Courtois).
"I got a lot of games under my belt in the lower leagues, and I don't feel the Premier League or this (England) is that much different.
“In some way, non-league and League Two was the hard challenge."
Is Pickford close to Courtois' level?
Pickford will now hope to become only the second English goalkeeper ever to play in a World Cup final.
And if England do beat Croatia on Wednesday night, there’s a good chance he could go head-to-head against Courtois again in the final on Sunday afternoon.
Belgium play France in the other semi-final on Tuesday night.
Is Jordan Pickford close to Thibaut Courtois’ level? Have your say by leaving a comment below.News Now - Sport News