Midfielder Frank Lampard is looking on the positive side of having to play England’s last competitive match before the World Cup without Wayne Rooney.
The inspirational Manchester United striker will miss the final game of a successful qualifying campaign against Belarus on Wednesday with a calf injury.
“He’s obviously a good player, he’s been in fantastic form,” Lampard said Monday. “He’s been the player of our campaign for sure, but it’s quite nice for us to have to get along without him.
“There are other good players waiting for a chance. If we can see other players coming through then it’s a good thing for us.”
Coach Fabio Capello is considering who to play alongside Emile Heskey up front at Wembley Stadium: midfielder Steven Gerrard, Carlton Cole, who came off the bench in Saturday’s 1-0 loss in Ukraine, or Gabriel Agbonlahor.
That defeat was the first of the qualification campaign, although England’s spot in South Africa next June had been secured a month earlier.
Rio Ferdinand bore the brunt of the criticism after the loss as it was the Manchester United defender’s failure to clear the ball that led to the incident where goalkeeper Robert Green was sent off.
Lampard, though, has every confidence in the central defensive partnership of Ferdinand and John Terry, his captain with both Chelsea and England.
“Rio’s consistency along with John in the last four or five years puts them right with the top center halves in the world for me,” Lampard said at the team’s hotel north of London. “It’s unfortunate that there seem to be players taking stick at any one time. We need to get behind players, and Rio is certainly a big player. He’s been fantastic for such a long time.
“When the big game comes you need big players.”
As for England’s prospects next year, Lampard was keen to avoid any of the hyperbole used by former Football Association chief executive Adam Crozier , who played up the squad’s strengths ahead of the 2002 World Cup with a description the midfielder would rather forget.
“The whole ‘Golden Generation’ thing was quite frustrating for us players - we didn’t make up the term,” Lampard said. “We were a good crop of players coming through, very talented individuals and we haven’t made the most of that. We have all held our hands up to that many a time.
“Now is a great chance. We are in better shape and it’s not me saying we are going to win the World Cup, but the team’s working as a unit much better than we did in the past.”