VETERAN midfielder Frank Lampard says he will struggle to celebrate winning his 100th England cap tomorrow unless his team beat Ukraine in their vital World Cup qualifier.
England will relinquish top spot in Group H should they lose in Kiev and would then face a likely head-to-head with current occupiers of second place Montenegro for a spot in the play-offs, placing their goal of reaching next year’s finals in Brazil in fresh doubt.
A late Lampard penalty was required to rescue a point in a 1-1 draw with Ukraine at Wembley 12 months ago, and the 35-year-old, who is set to become England’s eighth centurion, will only pop the champagne cork if three points are secured.
“I will be very proud if I get on the pitch because it’s been a long time, but it wouldn’t be enjoyable to reach 100 and get the wrong result,” said Chelsea’s record goalscorer, who has also netted 29 times for England.
“I’d love to fly back from Ukraine with three points because that would put us in a strong position.
“We are well aware this is going to be a pivotal game. If we win we have it very much in our hands, although we still have two difficult home games to come [against Montenegro and Poland].
“I’ve been impressed with them [Ukraine]. They had a bad start to the group but against us they played with a lot of talent, technical ability and pace. We have to go there knowing they’re a good team, but need to believe in our own ability.
“The carrot of Brazil, a huge footballing nation – it’s a World Cup that everyone wants to be part of.”
England won on their last trip to Ukraine, when Wayne Rooney scored the only goal in a group stage victory over the Euro 2012 co-hosts last summer.
Rooney will miss tomorrow’s fixture with the head injury that kept him out of Friday’s 4-0 win over Moldova and is joined on the sidelines by fellow forwards Daniel Sturridge (thigh) and Danny Welbeck (suspended).
It leaves manager Roy Hodgson with Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe and Rickie Lambert of Southampton as his only recognised forwards.
England’s remaining fixtures
Tomorrow: Ukraine (A), 7.45pm
11 October: Montenegro (H), 8pm
15 October: Poland (H), TBC