Jordan Pickford has called on England Under-21s to harness their penalty pain and return stronger for Euro 2019 – or gatecrash the senior squad.
The Young Lions crashed out of the European Championship 4-3 on penalties after an enthralling semi-final against Germany had ended 2-2 in Tychy on Tuesday evening.
Julian Pollersbeck saved Nathan Redmond’s crucial spot-kick, sending Germany through to Friday’s final against Spain in Krakow.
New Everton goalkeeper Pickford, along with Redmond, captain James Ward-Prowse and Nathaniel Chalobah, end their under-21 careers in Poland, while others will have another shot at European glory in two years’ time.
“We’re all disappointed but we have a lot of lads who will have the chance to come again to the tournament in two years and then there’s others like myself who have to try and kick on and get in the senior squad,” Pickford, 23, said.
“Everybody is going to be hungry. We all want to get better as a group and individually. We did ourselves proud even though we didn’t get to the final.
“As a group of lads and the staff, we’ve stuck together from day one and it just wasn’t to be in the penalty shootout. We’ve done our bit and that’s all we could have done.”
Pickford had saved Yannick Gerhardt’s penalty but Pollersbeck promptly denied Tammy Abraham. Lewis Baker, Ben Chilwell and Ward-Prowse all scored from the spot.
Demarai Gray and Abraham netted in normal time to overturn Davie Selke’s opener only for Felix Platte to send the game into extra time.
Pickford, who joined Everton for £30million from Sunderland earlier this month, added: “It’s always going to be difficult to take. Penalty shootouts are never a nice way to lose and on another day we might have won it. During 90 minutes I thought we were the dominant side, especially during the first half.
“We were a bit tired towards the end but we dug in and we’ve said all along we’re a strong group of lads who are there to help each other when it’s going hard. it was unfortunate.”
And Gray, who turned 21 on Wednesday, is already looking forward to having another bid for glory at Euro 2019 in Italy and San Marino.
“It’ll be nice,” the Leicester winger said. “It’s a great tournament, my first major tournament, and I’ve enjoyed every minute.
“I feel like having the tournament off the back of the season is good and you can express yourselves. It’s good for you and your development.”
Redmond left the ground in tears but Ward-Prowse has backed his Southampton colleague to recover.
He said: “It’s difficult at the time. Nathan is a very close friend of mine and a team-mate at club level as well. It’s important for him to learn from this experience.
“I know his mindset and I know this experience will make him stronger as a person and as a footballer. He is a good friend and he’ll grow from this.”
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