England’s players will return home to a heroes’ welcome over the coming days after reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup finals.
Although fans were bitterly disappointed after watching their national team lose 2-1 to Croatia last Wednesday, sealing a spot in the last four was still a remarkable achievement from Gareth Southgate and his 23-man squad.
England finish in fourth place after losing 2-0 to Belgium in the third/fourth place play-off on Saturday afternoon but that won’t take the gloss off what has been an unforgettable tournament.
The reputations of almost every member of England’s World Cup squad has been enhanced over the past four weeks.
Casual football fans back in England wouldn’t have known much about the likes of Jordan Pickford, Kieran Trippier and Harry Maguire prior to this summer’s showpiece international tournament.
But that’s now completely changed. Even those who care little for the sport will now recognise them in the street.
Pickford cemented his status as a national hero after his role in England’s penalty shoot-out victory over Colombia in the Round of 16.
Henry Winter: Pickford was taunted in the tunnel
The Everton goalkeeper also pulled off a string of fine saves against Sweden in the quarter-finals and was unfortunate to be on the losing team in the semis.
Journalist Henry Winter has revealed a brilliant story involving Pickford from just after full-time against Croatia.
A member of a Croatia TV crew taunted the 24-year-old inside the tunnel by saying: "You should have f***ing won that".
Completely unnecessary, we’re sure you’ll all agree.
Pickford's response was gold
Pickford, however, had the perfect response to the Croatian TV crew member. He simply replied: “Next time” before heading off to the dressing room.
In fairness, the Englishman showed remarkable restraint not to react. He would have been well within his rights to have said something worse in return.
But he clearly felt that the crew member wasn’t worth it. In any case, “next time” did the job nicely. He won’t forget that the next time England play Croatia.
As it happens, England are playing Croatia again in the near future. On October 12, they will meet the World Cup finalists again in the UEFA Nations League.
Pickford will do everything in his power to ensure he keeps a clean sheet in that one - and hopefully bump into that TV crew member again after the final whistle.News Now - Sport News