Southgate praises 'prototype' Pickford after quarter-final clean sheet

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The goalkeeper made a trio of brilliant saves in England's 2-0 defeat of Sweden, earning high praise from his manager

England manager Gareth Southgate described Jordan Pickford as the prototype of a modern goalkeeper after his saves helped book a place in the World Cup semi-finals .

Pickford made a trio of superb stops as England beat Sweden 2-0 in Samara on Saturday thanks to headers from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli either side of the break.

England will face Croatia in the semi-final in Moscow on Wednesday in what will be their first appearance in the last four of the World Cup since 1990 .

And Southgate said Pickford - along with goalscorer Maguire - was one of the key reasons why the Three Lions extended their stay at Russia 2018, keeping their first clean sheet of the tournament.

"Pickford for me is the sort of prototype of what a modern goalkeeper should be," Southgate said at a news conference. 

"The number of touches you have with your feet is exceptionally high in the modern game, especially in European and international football. The Premier League a little bit different because you have to deal with more crosses into the box. That becomes a different set of skills.

"But his speed around the goal, the saves he made at critical times, and generally his distribution – there were some excellent moments with that, picking out [Kieran] Trippier a few times with a reverse pass, able to play through the lines. To be able to play we want to play looking forward, we need goalkeepers of that ilk.

"And Maguire has been a giant in both boxes right throughout the tournament. I'm so pleased. When I was watching him during the season I was so keen for him to stay fit because I thought this was a stage I was certain he could play at. I'm not sure he's always believed that.

"His first game in Moldova he talked about just being desperate not to make a mistake. I remember saying to him before the next game 'okay, how about we try to be as good as we might be' because I think he's a super talented player.

"His use of the ball is as good any centre-back in the tournament. Hopefully he's gaining belief from the performances at this level. We've scored set-play goals because of him up to this point and he's got the one he deserves."

England have only been in the semi-finals twice before, winning the tournament on home soil in 1966, with Southgate joining Bobby Robson and Alf Ramsey in an elite club of managers to have led the Three Lions into the last four of a World Cup.

"It's an incredible privilege to be the England manager anyway," Southgate added. 

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"To be able to take the team this far, and knowing the people who have done it in the past – not just World Cups but with Terry [Venables] and Don [Howe], the European Championship as well – people I have incredible respect for and hold in such high esteem, I feel privileged to be in the position.

"We spoke to the players. None of us fancied going home. We've got to be here for another week so it's up to us now which games we play in. So proud of what all of the players and all of the staff have done. We've got to this point because the collective has been so strong and we played an opponent whose identity is clear and whose togetherness has at times been too much to handle for us over the years."

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