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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 21, 2006

World Cup novice Lampard has point to prove

Frank Lampard has admitted he is a World Cup novice but does not feel like one as he prepares prepares to play on football's biggest stage for the first time in Germany.

The Chelsea midfielder was disappointed to be overlooked by head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson for the 2002 finals in Japan and Korea but it proved to be a turning point in his career.

Lampard, determined not to repeat such heartbreak, was one of England's star players in Euro 2004 with three goals in four games and is now one of Eriksson's major performers.

He said: 'It feels strange I have got to this age, 27 going on 28, without playing a World Cup. It was a big disappointment not to go to the last one.

'I was upset to miss out on the World Cup and I didn't want to get that feeling again. I went away after that and was a bit thoughtful and worked hard and came back with a positive rather than a negative mindset.

'I came back with the attitude of wanting to get into the England side and staying there and fortunately enough I did that not long after.

'I don't think there was much to change. I just worked hard. Every player in his career has setbacks. You get rejections and the measure of a top player is how they come back from those rejections and they come back even stronger - and I did that.

'Maybe it was more of a mental thing than a physical thing and I feel confident for what lies ahead. I am a World Cup novice but I don't feel like one.

'I've got a lot of big football at club level behind me. I am looking forward to it. It will be like the European Championships but that with step extra that the World Cup brings.'

With doubts still surrounding Wayne Rooney's fitness, there could be extra onus on players like Lampard and Steven Gerrard to provide goals from midfield.

He said: 'If there are injuries to strikers then, of course, we will have extra responsibility from midfield. The players in there will put that responsibility on themselves anyway.

'We've got natural goalscorers in midfield. We are all confident we can score goals. If you are going to win the World Cup, you need goals from midfield as well as your strikers.'

On the domestic front Lampard is boosted by the news of Michael Ballack's arrival at Stamford Bridge even though the German is a similar player to himself.

He said: 'Michael is a good signing, a good player, a very good player. There is only a certain group of players in world football that can improve our squad and Michael Ballack is one of those.

'Is this a message to the Premier League? It is the same message we have been sending out for the last two or three summers.