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Lampard keeps the champagne on ice as England reach WC

sports Updated: Sep 10, 2009 17:48 IST
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Frank Lampard warned his England team-mates not to start popping the champagne corks just yet after Fabio Capello's team booked their place at the World Cup.

Lampard scored twice to help England to the 5-1 rout of Croatia at Wembley on Wednesday which guaranteed a trip to South Africa for next year's finals.

But the Chelsea midfielder insists there is no way England's stars should get carried away dreaming of World Cup glory.

After qualifying with two games to spare thanks to an impressive eight-match winning run, there will be plenty of pundits willing to proclaim England as serious contenders to win the World Cup for the first time since 1966.

Yet Lampard revealed there were no wild celebrations in the England dressing room because everyone is aware how much work still needs to be done to get ready for South Africa.

"We're pretty calm. We are happy with the way we have played and we are confident at the moment but we understand there is a long way to go," Lampard said.

"Come the big tournament with the big teams we have to up our level again. We will work to do that in the next year.

"There is a very level-headed atmosphere in the changing room because we went through quite a low two years ago.

"It is basically the same players in the squad, it is just that we are working together and working hard.

"That shows you the difference that can be made with little differences and changes. You shouldn't get too down with criticism or too up with adulation.

"We are well aware that we can't get carried away. There is no time for celebration but it is a nice feeling to take back to our clubs."

After spending much of his recent career as a whipping boy for England fans when the team struggled, Lampard is enjoying a new lease of life.

He has scored six goals in his last seven England appearances and admits he is growing into the midfield holding role Capello asks him to play to allow Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard more freedom.

"I'm playing more disciplined and defensive but I've been given more of a licence in the last few games and the manager hasn't screamed at me to stay back so much," Lampard said.

"Wayne is a fantastic player in the hole and Steven plays his role fantastic. He is not stuck on the left and times his arrival in the box well.

"We've had some nice nights in tournaments when we've won games but to qualify in the style we have done and to finish with the best performance of the lot and beat a team of Croatia's quality is awesome to be part of."

Even a hard taskmaster like Capello couldn't have too many complaints after such a formidable display and Lampard added: "He was very happy. He has got a very strong work ethic but it's great to work with him.

"He does have the occasional smile and a little joke and I have learned a lot.

"He said well done but he doesn't say much. He waits for the next get-together."

If England are to make a major impact in South Africa, it is essential that Rooney maintains his current hot streak.

The Manchester United forward tapped in to take his tally to nine goals in eight games - a record for an England qualifying campaign - and make it 25 in all to leapfrog 1966 World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst in the overall England goalscoring list.

"I didn't know that but it's a good record to have," Rooney said. "With two games left hopefully I can get into double figures.

"I'm sure the manager will change a few things but hopefully I can still get a chance to score."