With England bound for home following their final match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, striker Rickie Lambert has described his first taste of the tournament as “ruthless” after a pair of opening defeats, while insisting a change of coach would be a big mistake.
Roy Hodgson’s side succumbed to back-to-back 2-1 losses at the hands of Italy and Uruguay to see their third game in Group D hold little more than pride for the Three Lions, as they bid to leave South America with some points to accompany their luggage. But the forward, who is at his first major competition, admits to FIFA that he will be leaving with a sense of what could have been.
“Games are mostly won on fine margins,” he said. “Both games I thought we were better, I thought we were the better team, and we haven’t managed to take our chances, and the opposition have taken their chances,” he said ahead of their meeting with Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte. “It’s the one or two per cent that makes all the difference, and both games went to the other team, which is devastating.”
England had looked to have given themselves a realistic shot at qualification after equalising against the South Americans, only for Luis Suarez to get his second of the game with five minutes to go to virtually seal elimination. With the 32-year-old, who only made his international debut in August 2013, now knowing that this will be their final game at the tournament, he reflected on the experience of his first World Cup.
It definitely wouldn’t be the right thing now to change things.
“It’s ruthless, it’s absolutely ruthless,” he conceded. “It’s something that I’ve never experienced before in my life, I’ve played in a lot of games but I’ve never played in a tournament. It’s hard to forget about [getting knocked out] and start looking to the future, it’s going to take time to get over what’s happened. When it does die down, when it does clear a little bit, then I think we can take positives.”
One thing, in his mind, that does not need any time to mull over is whether Roy Hodgson should continue to lead the team, having forged a young and developing squad for the tournament. “It’s very important that we keep the group together, especially the young kids, and that the right man brings them on again. I think Roy is the right man,” Lambert declared. “He has brought in young lads who’ve progressed so much and so quickly under him. It definitely wouldn’t be the right thing now to change things. Under his guidance I think they’re only going to get better.”
The last thing on their to-do list in Brazil is their meeting with Costa Rica and while Lambert feels England’s performances in their first two games has meant they have not been “embarrassed” in exiting the competition, he acknowledges that they need a result against the Group D leaders. “We don’t want to finish on zero points,” he said. “It’s definitely not what we want to do. We want to finish on a high.
“We understand it’s a different kind of pressure that’s going to be on the next game now, and we’ve got to handle that. It’s a game that we’re desperate to win.”