Former Preston loanee Jordan Pickford insists there will be no let up from England against Belgium

Former Preston North End loanee Jordan Pickford would happily pocket three points and a clean sheet if Belgium decide to take it easy in Kaliningrad, insisting there is no chance of England dialling down their own intensity.

Wednesday, 27th June 2018, 10:21 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th June 2018, 11:23 am
Jordan Pickford speaks to the press ahead of England's game against Belgium

The World Cup Group G rivals are already through to the last 16 and Thursday will see them squabbling over first and second place, rather than anything more dramatic.

Projections suggest the team which finishes runner-up would enjoy a more gentle sequence of knockout fixtures - a prospect which the Belgians are reportedly keen on, particularly as they would also play their first knockout match in Moscow, where they are based.

England, though, appear more bullish about the fixture and goalkeeper Pickford sees no need for split priorities.

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"If that's how they feel it will make my job easier," said the Everton 'keeper, who made 27 appearances for the Lilywhites in 2015.

"If they don't want to score they won't have any shots. We're ready for them and we're ready to win the game. We want to finish top of the group."

Brazil or Germany are shaping up as nightmare quarter-final possibilities for the team which takes top spot - assuming, of course, they also negotiate their first knockout game - but Pickford is ready for all-comers.

"It doesn't matter who we might play next because to get as far as you can, to get to the final, you're going to have to face these top teams," he said.

Jordan Pickford speaks to the press ahead of England's game against Belgium

"Either way you're going to have to play them so, if we play them early, that's how it's going to be."

Southgate's opposite number, Roberto Martinez, has publicly pondered wholesale changes to his side and England will make alterations too.

The likes of Eric Dier, Gary Cahill, Danny Rose and Marcus Rashford are all in strong contention for starting spots, but Harry Kane's pursuit of the golden boot could mean he is allowed to start up front.

Pickford, who edged Jack Butland in a tight selection decision at the start of the tournament, said: "It's a team game, there's 23 players and all 23 in the squad are fighting for places.

"The whole squad is here to play football. Everyone wants to be playing. It's so tough to call who's going to play because the ability in the squad is unbelievable. It gives opportunities for a few lads to get some minutes under their belt."