Pickford shrugs off painful anniversary as Belgium looms large

June 27 marks a dark day for English football but Jordan Pickford says those painful experiences will make the Three Lions stronger.

England was dumped out of Euro 2016 by Iceland.   -  Getty Images

Jordan Pickford says the approaching anniversary of England's shock defeat to Iceland is not affecting Gareth Southgate's squad ahead of a showdown with Belgium.

Wednesday marks two years to the day that the Three Lions were sensationally dumped out of Euro 2016 in the second round by the major tournament debutants.

Under Southgate, there is a far greater sense of optimism surrounding this youthful England side, that squeezed past Tunisia 2-1 in its Group G opener before swatting aside Panama 6-1 on Sunday to secure a place in the last 16.

A win against Belgium in Kaliningrad on Thursday will see England advance as group winners and Pickford - who was not part of the 23 that failed in France - says those who were involved will be stronger for that desperate disappointment.

"You're always going to have experiences in football and life. You take the bad experiences to get better," Pickford told reporters.

"I've had a couple of bad experiences playing football. That's how you get better as a person, as a player and a group. We're not looking too far ahead. We're taking it game by game. We're keeping the humble side of it and not getting carried away. We know what we're capable of doing as a squad.

"I feel like we will keep plugging away, keep working hard and then go and perform on a matchday. Last year [with the Under-21s] we got knocked out in the semis against Germany. It wasn't nice to take because we battered them all game and should have won.

"You take those experiences away and you learn from them. That's what football's all about."

Pickford's Spanish counterpart, David de Gea, came in for criticism following a high-profile mistake in the opening draw with Portugal, but the Everton man rejected the suggestion that seeing arguably the world's greatest goalkeeper commit such a basic error had sharpened his focus even more.

"It's never nice to see another goalkeeper making those mistakes but I can only talk about what me, Jack [Butland] and [Nick] Popey do day in, day out in training," he said. "We work very hard not to have those mistakes.

"We do about 600 saves a week in a training week, just for that one save on a matchday. That's why you've got to be in the game at all times. It's never nice to make those mistakes but you learn from them."

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