Jordan Pickford was England’s penalty shootout hero once again as Gareth Southgate’s men eventually overcame Switzerland to bring an exciting end to a tepid third-place play-off in the Nations League.
Three days on from losing their semi-final to the Netherlands due to two defensive gifts and a narrow offside call, the Three Lions returned to a far quieter Estadio D Afonso Henriques for Sunday’s battle for bronze.
Callum Wilson thought he had grabbed a late winner ruled until the video assistant referee intervened in Guimaraes, where England dominated throughout only for the match to end 0-0 after 120 minutes.
The match went to spot-kicks and Pickford again came into his own in the shootout, denying Josip Drmic in sudden death after scoring his own spot-kick as the Three Lions won 6-5 on penalties.
It was a positive note at the end of a forgettable match that at least brings the team bronze medals and penalty confidence ahead of Euro 2020.
England should have had the match wrapped up long before the shootout, though, with the Swiss goal frame rattled four times across the 120 minutes.
Southgate’s men even thought they had snatched an 84th-minute winner through Wilson, only for VAR to spot his foul on Manuel Akanji.
A great way to bring an incredible season to an end. Time for a break. 🙌🏽 🏴 pic.twitter.com/KRYUQRQRzX— Trent Arnold (@trentaa98) 9 June 2019
It meant an extra 30 minutes of the match no-one wanted and eventually penalties, with Pickford emulating his last-16 heroics against Colombia at last year’s World Cup as England won another shootout.
It brought a welcome buzz at the end of a drab match that saw seven Southgate changes, with John Stones among those going out as Kane returned.
Less than two minutes were on the clock when the 25-year-old tried a chipped attempt from an acute angle, with goalkeeper Yann Sommer just able to tip onto the crossbar.
Raheem Sterling wasted a glorious chance in the 14th minute when put through by Kane’s nifty footwork and firing straight at Sommer.
Mistiming his run onto a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross soon compounded matters, while Dele Alli became the next to waste an excellent ball by the England right-back as he powered a header over.
Switzerland were creating precious little at the other end as they struggled to click into gear England continued in the ascendancy after the break.
Kane’s unsettling presence saw Fabian Schar stretch to prevent him reaching a Danny Rose cross, only for the defender to turn the ball onto the far post of his own goal.
Granit Xhaka saw a first-time strike denied by Pickford straight after but things soon slowed in a bumbling second half.
Harry Maguire’s turn on the edge of his own six-yard box brought a rare moment to cheer after days of talk about playing it out from the back, before there finally seemed to be a breakthrough in the 84th minute.
Alli met a Sterling cross with header that crashed back off the frame of the goal and Wilson reacted quickest to poke home from close range.
Relief and joy soon became frustration, though, as VAR would again rule out a late England winner, with referee Ovidiu Hategan checking the monitor and seeing Wilson’s foul on Akanji.
Xhaka blocked before the match entered extra time, which started with Sterling and Eric Dier having half-hearted efforts.
Sommer did superbly when England threatened next, denying Alli before stopping Sterling’s follow-up.
Wilson was thwarted by a late tackle in the second period, which saw Sterling whack the crossbar with a 20-yard free-kick three minutes from time.
It was the last chance and the match went to penalties.
Maguire and Ross Barkley took different approaches but scored their spot-kicks, as did Jadon Sancho and Sterling despite Sommer going the right way.
Pickford took off his gloves to fire a spot-kick of his own home, but he was unable to stop any of the first five Swiss efforts as the shootout went to sudden death.
Eric Dier struck home the first before Josip Drmic was denied, with Pickford diving to his right to paw away the strike and seal victory.
Jordan Pickford admitted to feeling nervous when he stepped up to take a penalty in England’s shoot-out win over Switzerland.
The Guimaraes contest went to spot-kicks after a goalless 120 minutes and Pickford again came into his own, denying Josip Drmic in sudden death after scoring his own effort in emphatic fashion as the Three Lions won 6-5 on penalties.
The victory secured third place in the Nations League and afterwards Everton goalkeeper Pickford told Sky Sports: “It was a very tough game.
“We showed character and belief again. Sometimes it’s hard to get up for a game like this, but it just shows us where we want to go and how we get better as a team and bounce back.
“We always say, ‘Do what it takes to win a game’, and I was a bit nervous taking my penalty – but I’m not nervous saving them.
“We practise them when there’s a major competition or the Nations League, we practise them consistently.
“I picked my spot and I always seem to be able to get a goal, but I’ve never taken one in a real game, so I was a bit nervous.
“I think we took (off) Harry Kane and some of the other lads who take penalties, so I wasn’t sure where I was in the pecking order. But it’s what you practise for, you practise all the time to make sure you make it easier on the day.”
Pickford sent Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer the wrong way with a confident finish and the England man added: “It’s all about routine, I would say.
“You watch the top penalty takers, and Harry Kane’s got his own routine, so you’ve got to create your own routine to make sure everything’s done to perfection.”
England lost to the Netherlands on Thursday and, asked for his thoughts on the Nations League campaign, Pickford added: “I think the biggest learning curve was Thursday night. We learned that we need to see a game out better and maybe get that next goal.
“But you can only learn by defeat really, I think these two games were a lot better than playing two qualifying games so that’s massive for us going into the qualifying campaign for the Euros.”
Wayne Rooney believes England risk “starting from scratch” if they do not persevere with playing out from defence.
Gareth Southgate’s side saw their Nations League ambitions ended by the Netherlands at the semi-final stage on Thursday after being punished for risky play at the back from John Stones and Ross Barkley.
Despite the 3-1 extra-time loss in Portugal, former England captain Rooney has urged Southgate not to ditch his current tactics.
“I think that’s where England have got a lot better, playing out from the back and having more possession of the ball than we have had in recent times,” the 33-year-old told BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek programme ahead of their 6-5 penalty shootout victory against Switzerland in the Nations League third-place play-off on Sunday.
“I’d encourage them to keep playing.
“Mistakes were made and we lost the game but I’m sure those mistakes won’t happen again. And if they do and that’s the way the manager wants to play then I’m sure the manager will take responsibility and encourage them to keep doing it.
“You can’t have a manager saying we want to play out from the back but then you make a mistake and he slaughters you for it. Players can’t go 90 minutes, week in, week out, without making mistakes.
“If I was in Gareth’s position, I would keep encouraging them to keep doing what they are doing and keep progressing because if you throw the blueprint out of the window now then you’re almost starting from scratch again.”
The 3-1 loss to Ronald Koeman’s side in Guimaraes pitted England against Switzerland.
Southgate has guided the team to the last four in successive tournaments following last summer’s memorable run to the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia.
Former Manchester United and Everton player Rooney, who scored a record 53 goals in 120 appearances for his country, thinks England are on course to be one of the favourites to win Euro 2020.
“With England the future is bright,” continued Rooney, who currently plays for MLS club DC United.
“I said after Euro 2016, we’ve got some fantastic quality and I didn’t expect them to get to the semi-final in the next World Cup but that will certainly give them a boost going into the next tournament.
“I think keep progressing the way they are then they’ll be one of the favourites for the next tournament.
“I think over the last 12 months, they’ve made huge strides in terms of getting to the semi-final, and obviously everyone was disappointed not to go through but the team has got a lot of young players in it.
“I think the defeat against Holland will help them in the long run.”