Despite never winning a trophy with the so-called “golden generation,” Frank Lampard retired from England duty on Tuesday having provided his greatest legacy to football in one game he’d rather forget.
The midfielder prompted the introduction of goal-line technology when he was denied a clear goal in England’s humiliating 4-1 loss to Germany at the 2010 World Cup.
The referee’s mistake was so glaring that FIFA President Sepp Blatter quickly reversed his long-standing opposition to goal-line technology. For the 2014 World Cup, FIFA used cameras in stadiums to instantly determine if a ball had crossed the line.
But as football entered a new era in Brazil, Lampard was in the final act of an international career that began in 1999. The 36-year-old midfielder made just one appearance at the World Cup, earning a 106th and final cap in a 0-0 draw against Costa Rica when England was already out of contention to advance from the group stage.
With the inquest into England’s worst-ever World Cup showing still continuing, Lampard decided to follow captain Steven Gerrard into international retirement and leave qualifying for the 2016 European Championship to younger players.
“It has been a very tough decision for me to make, which is why I have given it so much thought since the World Cup,” Lampard said in a statement. “I have always been exceptionally proud and honoured to represent my country and have to say looking back I have enjoyed every minute of wearing the England shirt.”
Lampard has just embarked on a new phase of his club career after a trophy-laden, 13-year spell at Chelsea was ended by the club in May. He joined New York City FC, which sent him back to the Premier League on loan to partner club Manchester City to prepare for the Major League Soccer team’s debut in 2015.
“Due to my club career now going in a different direction it is of utmost importance for me to consider my family first — also, to concentrate on how I can perform consistently to the best of my abilities over my next few years in club football,” Lampard said.
Lampard’s announcement comes a month after the 34-year-old Gerrard also decided to focus on his club career at Liverpool. Their international retirements draw a line under a debate that dominated England discussion for years — whether Gerrard and Lampard could play together in midfield.
Alongside David Beckham, Michael Owen, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand they were part of a group of players who emerged in the late 1990s dubbed the “golden generation” by the Football Association. But they never came close to winning England’s first trophy since the 1966 World Cup, reaching the quarter-finals with Lampard at Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup.
Now England coach Roy Hodgson is trying to rebuild the team before Euro 2016 qualifying begins against Switzerland next month, with the squad announced on Thursday. Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney is expected to assume the England armband from Gerrard.
“I feel very confident that, with Roy Hodgson in charge, the young players that we have coming through and the changes that are being made throughout the development of the youth system in this country, we will have success in the future and a team that this country deserves,” Lampard said.
Lampard is joint sixth on the England appearances’ leaderboard, alongside Bobby Charlton, having scored 29 goals and been denied a 30th in that 2010 World Cup game against Germany.
“To reach in excess of 100 international caps is something very few professionals achieve and he is in exalted company,” Hodgson said. “He has served the national team quite brilliantly during his 15-year international career. It is with regret that I accept and understand the decision he’s made.”
Retired goalkeeper Peter Shilton holds the England record with 125 appearances followed by former captain Beckham on 115.