Sunday 23 November 2014

Lampard's achievements with England should not be overlooked

Simon Peach

Published 26/08/2014 | 14:38

Frank Lampard has announced his international retirement after 106 caps for England
Frank Lampard has announced his international retirement after 106 caps for England

Frank Lampard's England career will leave many ruing what could have been but - much like recently-retired Steven Gerrard - his achievements should not be overlooked.

After months of speculation, the 36-year-old has at last confirmed that he will not be adding to his 106 caps - a haul only bettered by Peter Shilton, David Beckham, Gerrard, Bobby Moore and Ashley Cole.

Lampard took the decision as he looks towards the new challenge presented by New York City, who he joined in July after a trophy-laden 13 years with Chelsea.

Signing a two-year deal with the Major League Soccer new boys, the midfielder said he would soon make a decision on his international future and he has been true to his word.

The news came as no real surprise given he had this summer hinted at England's preparation camp in Miami that the World Cup looked set to be his international swansong.

Lampard spoke at the time of his hope that he could make that decision after a successful tournament in Brazil, but, as we all know, things did not pan out that way.

Having played every minute of England's previous two World Cup campaigns, the veteran midfielder was reduced to a watching brief in the opening Group D encounters with Italy and Uruguay.

Lampard's only appearance came with England's fate already sealed, captaining the side as they were held to a drab 0-0 draw with Costa Rica.

The draw made Roy Hodgson's men the worst-performing England side in World Cup history and led to an uncomfortable post-mortem in which all involved have been scrutinised.

Gerrard retired in the weeks that followed, relinquishing his role as captain, and now Lampard has followed suit, calling time on a topsy-turvy time with the Three Lions.

He retires with the same number as caps as World Cup winner Charlton and while he does not deserve to be seen in the same light at the Manchester United great, neither should he be forgotten.

A representative of the youth teams up to under-21 level, the West Ham midfielder made his first appearance for the senior side in October 1999, starting the 2-1 win over Belgium at the Stadium of Light.

It took a further four years and 11 matches for him to finally score, with that effort against Croatia at Portman Road the first of 29 he would go on to score for his country.

Lampard's best performances in an England shirt came a decade ago in Portugal, where he netted three goals in England's run to the European Championship quarter-finals.

Those wondrous displays earned him a place in the Euro 2004 team of the tournament and was form he continued in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, notching five goals as England topped Group 6.

Lampard's 80th-minute goal against Poland securing qualification by a single point was a high point from which things soon began to go awry.

Voted England Player of the Year by fans in 2004 and 2005, he was guilty of missing a spot-kick as England crashed out to Portugal at the quarter-final stage of the 2006 finals in Germany.

That devastating experience was compounded when, just two years after being lauded as England's best player, he was jeered by England supporters when he came on 20 minutes from the end of a 3-0 Euro 2008 qualifying win over Estonia.

"It's disappointing he gets a reaction like that," then head coach Steve McClaren said.

"But players have to deal with that and cope with that. Frank has done that in the past and will do it again."

Lampard impressively picked himself up from that and remained an important member of the side, although England's performances on the big stages continued to underwhelm.

McClaren's men failed to make it to Euro 2008 and two years on, having qualified with ease, England performed miserably at the World Cup in South Africa.

Only just able to eke their way through a kind-looking group, Fabio Capello's side crashed out in the last 16 against Germany in a match for which Lampard will forever be remembered after having a perfectly good goal chalked off - a mistake that was the catalyst to the introduction of goal-line technology.

"It has created a change in football where we've got some goal-line technology which is a bonus," he said.

"But it was disappointing because it would have changed the game. We came out in the second half at 2-1 down and then we hit the bar. I remember hitting the bar with a free-kick."

There were more lows to come - missing out on Euro 2012 through injury, for example - but there were highs, too.

A part of the side taught a footballing lesson by Spain in 2009, Lampard captained England to an impressive win against the world champions at Wembley in November 2011, when his close-range header secured a 1-0 victory.

There were more caps and goals to come in a career which reached a milestone in the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine on September 10, 2013.

That match saw Lampard became just the eighth player to earn a century of England caps, putting him amongst a select band of fine international players.

It was frustrating and at times impressive career for Lampard, who should be credited and thanked rather than forgotten.

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