Jordan Pickford has reflected on a highly successful World Cup campaign with England, in which he believes the side gave the nation something to be proud of.
The Everton goalkeeper played a starring role as Gareth Southgate’s side finished fourth in Russia, exceeding pre-tournament expectations and enjoying a defining moment as they ended their penalty hoodoo by overcoming Colombia on spot kicks.
Pickford played a key role in that shootout victory, stopping Carlos Bacca’s kick in the last-16 encounter to book a date with Sweden in the quarter-finals.
And the 24-year-old, who has been linked with Chelsea and Bayern Munich in the aftermath of the competition, feels that his side did their country proud.
“The reaction was amazing. We did our bit and put smiles on people's faces. That's what international football should be about,” he told the Daily Mail.
“I want to play for England for as long as I can. There is no better feeling. The gaffer believed in me. But you only get one chance in football. I had to grasp it.
“I felt ready. We had done our homework. Every penalty I had the same routine and I did it exactly how I wanted to do it. I felt very relaxed and felt like I could make it happen for the country.
“I would think there is less pressure on the goalkeeper than the taker. But I was quite high up in the queue to take one. I would be confident. I know exactly where I would go... but I'm not telling you!”
Following that episode, Pickford raised his game further for the encounters against Sweden and Croatia and revealed that his game has been influenced heavily by a Manchester United great.
“I spread myself really well for that Croatia one,” he reflected on a stop from Mario Mandzukic in the semi-final. “I grew up watching Peter Schmeichel videos, so there may have been some of that there.
“As a Sunderland fan, I loved Tommy Sorensen.
“I watched football but I was a kid who really preferred being out on the street with my mates playing hide and seek! That's me - a bit daft! I was out playing football every day on the tarmac, diving to make saves.
“As a keeper, you need every tool in the box. You can be technically great but it's all about keeping the ball out the net. You need guts.”
Earlier in the competition, he had received criticism for a goal he conceded to Adnan Januzaj in a 1-0 group-stage defeat against Belgium, but he feels the way he reacted simply shows his character.
“My mental side of the game is really strong. It doesn't affect me,” he said.
“Anyone can slate me if they want to. I know if I have played well or badly. I always ask my dad and he tells me straight. Other people don't affect me. It's just about me becoming better. I still call my old goalkeeper coach, Mark Prudhoe at Sunderland, and he's very honest with me.
“On Adnan's goal, it's instinct. You have a split second. It's like boxing. If you go with a left hook, he might come over the top and surprise you with a right hook. My reactions are good.
“It was such a small margin and if I had saved it, everyone would have been saying: ‘What a worldy save!’
“People will criticise me because I am on the top stage. But that's where I want to be. It was an unbelievable effort by Adnan... it's just a pity he couldn't do that when he was at Sunderland!”
Pickford has cut short his summer holidays in order to best prepare himself for Everton’s Premier League campaign, which begins against Wolves on August 11.