Lampard feels heat over penalty miss but loses no sleep about England role

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The Independent Online

Sleep eluded a self-critical Frank Lampard following his first penalty miss for England on Tuesday night and the consequences were still being felt 48 hours later, to judge by his irritation at the mere mention of World Cup formations yesterday.

In fairness, the Chelsea midfielder could argue he was left with more reason than most to rue Sven Goran Eriksson's initial selection policy against Hungary, given that Steven Gerrard and not England's leading goalscorer in the World Cup qualifying campaign was granted the licence to fill the void created by Wayne Rooney's broken metatarsal while Lampard struggled to adapt to his more restricted role alongside the holding role occupant Jamie Carragher.

The failure to beat Gabor Kiraly from 12 yards in the 40th minute at Old Trafford typified an anguished evening for the 27-year-old that ensured the debate over how best to utilise his Stamford Bridge form would rumble on and into another international.

Yet Lampard's exasperation at the latest inquest into whether Eriksson genuinely knows England's most productive shape on the eve of the World Cup finals was not based on his individual hardship against Hungary but, worryingly, on whether the debate was necessary at all.

Lampard may be forced to sacrifice his natural game to allow Gerrard the freedom to influence international fixtures with the same authority he brings to club football but, like the Liverpool captain, he remains in public a fierce Eriksson loyalist, who believes England have the manager and the coaching to succeed in Germany, despite the impression left by Tuesday's performance it would appear.

"I have complete confidence in the manager," insisted Lampard yesterday. "You have to remember the quality of our manager. He has managed at the top level for many years now. We have worked on different options and formations now and we do have different options. The onus is on the manager to use the right system at the right times and we believe he will do that. We talk about systems, but it is about players, and we have to make it work however it is set up.

"It's a strange situation. There have been a lot of calls over the last few weeks for a midfield holder that can allow Stevie to go free, we've done it, we won 3-1 and now there are calls for us to go back to 4-4-2. The manager has said it's not such a bad thing if teams don't know what system we are going to play and to put doubt in the opposition's mind. We know and the manager knows what we are doing, and it's important to go into the World Cup with more than one option."

The public, however, are still waiting to witness an England team that consistently harnesses the potential of their outstanding individuals and the Hungary performance, irrespective of the result and a much-improved second-half display, prolonged the delay in the case of the dynamic heart of the side, Lampard and Gerrard.

On his own, refashioned role on Tuesday, the Chelsea midfielder insisted: "I don't know what people were expecting. If people are expecting me to score goals in every game and from a responsible midfield role, well, it's just not going to happen. You can analyse the individuals after every game, but it's about the team and the team performance and, on the whole, I thought it worked well. There were periods when we were not at our best but when we were we made it count."

Though Lampard emphasised the positives from the penultimate game before the tournament he conceded that his instinct is to increase his tally of 10 international goals, even though his most recent job description prohibited such adventure. "With Wayne out there is more responsibility on me and Stevie to score, definitely," he admitted. "We both understand how important it is to score goals from midfield and to contribute even more when you lose a player like Wayne Rooney but I know I'm strong enough to deal with that pressure. I thrive on it."

Dreaming was not on the agenda for Lampard in the hours that followed his penalty miss on Tuesday, with the national fear of failure from 12 yards reawakened despite repeated warnings, from Gary Neville and others, that this time England will be prepared.

Lampard added: "I'm trying to put a positive spin on it by saying it was not in an important game. I'm not making excuses but I practise penalties two or three times a week with Chelsea and since we've joined up with England it has mostly been fitness work and I've neglected my practice a bit, to be honest. I didn't sleep well after the game thinking about it. It takes a strong person to take penalties at the top level and I think I am that. Some people can't handle it, but I think I can."

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