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The striker's first World Cup and an imminent dream move to Liverpool are just reward for a fine season and he should prove a flexible impact substitute - plus a penalty must

A career that has moved relentlessly upward over the last few years hits its biggest climax yet as Rickie Lambert, bound for boyhood club Liverpool, travels to the World Cup with England.

The Southampton striker beat out the likes of Andy Carroll and Jermain Defoe for his place in Brazil and Goal takes a look at how he is shaping up ahead of this summer's finals.

SEASON 2013-14 ANALYSIS

You could tell that it was going to be another good season for Lambert when he came on as a substitute to score the winner with his first touch in an England shirt against Scotland. From that euphoric moment onwards, he set about building a fairly inarguable case for a place in Roy Hodgson's squad.

Though not Southampton's top scorer for the first time since he joined the club in 2009 – Jay Rodriguez netted 18 to his 15 – the 32-year-old was integral as the Saints set a new club record of 56 Premier League points.


With Dani Osvaldo alienating himself from the rest of the team and being shipped off on loan to Juventus in January, a great deal of responsibility was placed on Lambert's shoulders, particularly after Rodriguez’s injury, but if anything he improved in the second half of the season. Eight of his 15 goals came in 2014.

Despite goals against the likes of Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United, his success was not only in putting chances away. With 10 assists, Lambert was one of only four players – the others being Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney – to post double figures for both goals and assists in the Premier League.

PREVIOUS TOURNAMENT EXPERIENCE

Famously, Lambert's rise to the England fold has been quick and late. The Southampton star has only four caps to his name so far.

After heading home against Scotland, he followed that up with his second goal in as many games when he put the second of four past Moldova in a September qualifier.

His first professional game played outside of the United Kingdom came when he was picked to start in Ukraine but, largely left isolated, he was unable to make much happen in a dull 0-0, before making a late appearance off the bench against Germany in November.

LIKELY ROLE IN THE SQUAD

Lambert's non-appearance in Friday's friendly win over Peru may have had more to do with an impending medical at Anfield but the starting line-up for that game was another reminder that he is not heading to Brazil as first choice.

Though likely restricted to the role of an impact substitute, the Saints talisman is no like-for-like replacement for Andy Carroll. While tall and effective in the air, Lambert is not simply a target man but is, in many ways, most comfortable dropping a little deeper or pulling a little wider to bring others forward and manipulate space.

His sublime hold-up play and keen eye for a pass should suit the incisive pace of Daniel Sturridge, he offers a serious threat as a taker of free kicks and, of course, has developed a fine understanding with fellow Saint Adam Lallana.

Finally, should England make it as far as the knockout stages, the temptation to bring him on late in a match locked in a stalemate would grow exponentially – Lambert's astonishing precision from the penalty spot makes him a must for any potential shootout.



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