Jordan Pickford stepped up to take penalty number five for England, who defeated Switzerland to finish third in the first ever Nations League.
It was certainly a surprise for all England fans to see their goalkeeper step up to take a spot kick, despite several of attacking players having yet to take one. But Gareth Southgate’s bold selection paid off, and Pickford dually obliged from the spot.
Pickford, in fairness, has always been acknowledged for his incredible technique for his kicking, whether this is out of his hands or from dead ball situations. Southgate clearly saw something within Pickford and his technique, which saw his decision pay off.
It’s often easier for a left-footed player to aim for the goalkeeper’s right-hand side, but Pickford’s opted to go against this, trusting his technique to strike across his body.
Pickford, who moved to Everton from Sunderland for £30 million back in 2017, will be hoping his side can bring European football back to Goodison Park next season. Looking at the Premier League betting, Everton holds every chance of achieving the Europa League; Everton will be looking to improve after just missing out, finished eighth last season.
Studying his run-up, Pickford focused purely on the ball as he settled himself. As soon as the whistle was blown, he doesn't mess around performing a stuttering run-up, but still gives away very little to the opposing goalkeeper. He was solely focusing on how he's going to wrap his foot around the ball, keeping it away from the keeper and making sure there is enough power to make it unsavable.
The advantage Pickford has in a situation like this is that he knows exactly what the goalkeeper is thinking. He knows exactly what goalkeepers do not want to face in a shoot-out, and he can utilize all these elements into performing the perfect penalty.
It asks the question: why aren't more goalkeepers who are naturally gifted with their feet taking more penalties?
Not many goalkeepers spring to mind when it comes to taking penalties on a regular basis, but Rogerio Ceni is an exception. The Brazilian goalkeeper scored over a hundred goals, and he was lethal from the spot as well as free-kicks.
He scored a staggering 132 goals career, 69 of those were penalties and 61 were direct free kicks.
His technique was very different to Pickford's, but he often got results. The last player a goalkeeper wants to face is another goalkeeper, and this could play to the attacker's advantage.
Why isn't a striker taking it? Is this mind games? Goalkeepers will rarely study which way a penalty is going to be struck by the opposing keeper, which again, provides a strong advantage.
A picture revealed from England's penalty shoot-out against Colombia in the World Cup last summer revealed Pickford's water bottle, in which he had written down which way each player preferred to go from the spot.
Despite Ospina's name not being on the list, Pickford and England came out on top, proving the research from the England goalkeeper was invaluable between the sticks, as opposed to taking one himself.
Reverting back to Pickford's penalty, his technique was quite simply exquisite. As he's stepped up and planted his standing foot, he's used his left foot to get under the left side of the ball enough to make sure he will achieve both precision and power.
By wrapping your foot around the left side of the ball, this allows left footers to twist the body in order to strike the ball to the keepers left side. The same can be mirrored and replicated for a right-footed player looking to strike into the opposite corner.
By striking just below the middle of the ball, this will allow you to keep the ball from rising over the crossbar, allowing you to put more venom behind the strike.
Combining eye contact and connection are two key elements to deliver a powerful, cross-body strike in a penalty shoot-out. It is often easier for a goalkeeper to read what corner you are aiming for if you concentrate on what corner you are planning on striking the ball into. The key is to make your mind up early and focus on striking the ball in the so-called "sweet spot."
The perfect way to practice this technique is by figuring out how much power to use to pick out the top corner and the bottom. This way, depending on the height or size of the opposing goalkeeper, you can adapt the technique to the height and direction of where you want to place the ball.
Pickford has shown a technique rarely used in penalty shoot-outs, or penalties in general. It may appear risky until the technique is mastered, but as proven, it can be highly effective.
Study the technique closely, head out onto the training pitch and focus on striking the ball from the penalty spot. Once you have mastered the technique, you can then move on and focus on using different kinds of power to perfect the perfect penalty.