Frank Lampard believes the diliuted expectation surrounding Gareth Southgate’s England side could open the door to surprise success at next summer’s World Cup finals.
England secured their place in Russia 2018 with an unconvincing 1-0 win against Solvenia at Wembley on Thursday, with Harry Kane’s late goal not enough to lift the mood of pessimism among the home fans despite their side’s unbeaten qualifying campaign.
Lampard was part of several England side that went into World Cup carrying huge expectations from fans and a demanding media pack, yet he senses the mood has changed after so many disappointing performances in major tournaments in recent years and he suspects that will help Southgate’s players.
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“I have been there and I know how it felt to play for England at a major tournament,” said BT Sport pundit Lampard, in an interview with Yahoo Sport. “There was huge expectation we were dealing with and while it never really affected me, maybe others were weighed down by it.
“When you win a big game with England, the reaction is fantastic and then when you lose, it goes other way. It can be difficult to deal with what is at stake at a World Cup, but you have to be able to handle it as an England player and we are not alone in setting the bar high, but maybe it has affected the team from time to time.
“Now it feels like the anticipation around the England team has dipped compared to my times in the squad and that might be a good thing. Let’s keep expectations at a controlled level and then we might surprise ourselves and a few other nations next summer.
“It’s going to be tough in Russia next summer, but we have to go into the tournament with a real sense of hope. We have Harry Kane leading the line, Dele Alli emerging as one of the best young players in the game and plenty more in that squad who have the potential to be great.
“It is good to keep expectations at a lower level and then we might surprise ourselves and a few other nations because there is no doubt we have some top quality players in this England team now.”
Lampard suggests the quality of the players emerging through the England ranks should ensure they open the door to a lengthy run in a major tournament in the next few years, as he suggests they could emerge as the surprise team of Russia 2018.
“Maybe we can slip under the radar and make an impression in the competition this time. I would rather be optimistic than fearing the worst, that has to be the best way to be,” added Lampard. “I would rather be optimistic than fearing the worst, that has to be the best way to be.
“We should believe something is possible with this group or players and even if we have felt let down by performances at times in recent years, that excitement and that belief will come back next summer when we go to Russia and that is only right.
“In the next five or ten years, looking at the England squad that is developing at such a rapid pace and the crop of players we have coming through, I’d be surprised if we don’t get a lot closer to winning one of the major tournaments than we have done in recent years.
“We have a good squad with a lot of young players who have the potential to be great. Gareth Southgate has started well in the job, but we all appreciate that the big test will come when we get to the World Cup and these major tournaments are so competitive, so tough to do well in.
“The pressure of being in that tournament environment is a challenge and in my view, the major tournaments are harder than ever to win. The lesser nations are no so much more tactically astute than they were a few years back and as we saw when Iceland beat us in the Euros last year, you have to respect every nation you come up against now because they all have top players and will be tough to break down.”
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