Frank Lampard describes England's next FIFA World Cup™ assignment, the last 16 date with old foes Germany on Sunday, as "a huge glamour game".
The Germans were England's 'reward' for taking the runners-up spot in Group C after Wednesday's 1-0 defeat of Slovenia at a Nelson Mandela Bay stadium transformed into a sea of red and white support for Fabio Capello's side. Lampard, commenting after England's win but before Germany had secured top spot in Group D in the evening win over Ghana, said: "Every game has its difficulties, but if it's Germany it will be a huge glamour game that obviously the nation would take to its heart."
The Chelsea midfielder believes England should fear no team now that it has finally found its spirit and form again after a dismal display in their second match, the goalless stalemate with Algeria in Cape Town last Friday. "If we play like we did against Slovenia and improve on that then we've got a great chance. With that determination and spirit we all showed what we can do. I don't think it matters who we play next, it's always going to be a difficult game anyway. Any team we meet will be strong."
Lampard reckons that having avoided crashing out in the group stages for the first time since 1958, England's FIFA World Cup starts now. "The tournament starts here because it's knockout. How you played in the group doesn't win you anything, it certainly doesn't get you any credit if you get sent home in the next round. But everybody starts here now, it's pure knockout football and it's about performing. When you think you are four games away from doing something very special that can only focus the mind."
He paid credit to Jermain Defoe, the Tottenham striker who made his 2010 FIFA World Cup debut in place of the misfiring Emile Heskey in one of the biggest gambles of Capello's career. Defoe didn't let the Italian or his country down, volleying home James Milner's inch-perfect cross from the right in the 23rd minute.
"Jermain is a goalscorer, he's done it wherever he's been. It's not easy to come in because he hasn't really played. People expect goalscorers to score instantly and it doesn't always happen. But he did it because he's very sharp and he was in the right place."
Lampard reserved special praise for the fans. "They were fantastic, it was like playing at home. When they are like that they're the best in the world."
Reflecting on a job well done in Port Elizabeth in a game captain Steven Gerrard had labelled as "a do or die situation" Lampard commented: "There was a real determination throughout the group to perform and I think you saw that in the way we played, everyone worked their socks off.
"We're delighted, it was a game we had to win and we did that. And I think we did it with a good performance. I think we could have scored more goals to make it more comfortable and avoid a nervy ending. But in terms of performance we spoke in the week about playing with more passion and pace in our game and we certainly did in the first half. That was the difference. We play like that for our clubs, that's why people regard the English Premier League as one of the best and fear it when we play at our best. When we play with them qualities we have a chance."