England vs. Moldova: Rickie Lambert Must Start in Kiev After Impressive Display

Aidan ReynoldsContributor IIISeptember 7, 2013

It may have just been Moldova, but Rickie Lambert looks to be comfortable on the international stage.
It may have just been Moldova, but Rickie Lambert looks to be comfortable on the international stage.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Regardless of who is available, Rickie Lambert should be leading the line for England when they travel to Kiev to face Ukraine on Tuesday.

England cannot afford to lose this World Cup qualifying game, so a performance equal to the one Lambert produced against Moldova will be necessary.

Fortunately, Lambert shows no sign of ending his current run of form.

It wasn't just that he scored his second goal in as many games. It wasn't just that he set up Welbeck's two goals on the night. It was more that he was a constant threat, looked hungrier than anyone on the field and read the game better than anyone else, too.

In a time where there is so much debate about players and convenient injury before international games—Daniel Sturridge had a knock that kept him out at a time when Suarez is still unavailable for Liverpool—it was a pleasant sight to see Lambert visibly proud to pull on the shirt and get stuck in.

Misty-eyed nostalgia for a byegone era isn't going to keep him in the national side, however, so he needs to take another step up against Ukraine. The challenge is much greater and the defenders will be on a different level—as well as armed with extra game footage of England's new weapon.

Captain Steven Gerrard gave Lambert his backing when speaking to the FA's official website, stating that the striker was substituted because he is due to play an important role in Tuesday's fixture.

Lambert won't need to change his game and suddenly become something he isn't, but he'll need a refinement of everything that makes him so dangerous if he is to continue his success story.

Like England, Ukraine dominated a lesser opponent, dishing out a 9-0 pasting to San Marino in a victory that ranks as the national side's largest ever win. England put a paltry five past them at Wembley, but that's hardly a barometer with which to judge a team.

For Lambert to make his mark, England must first contain Yevhen Konoplyanka, the Ukranian playmaker whose talents were so evident against San Marino. His orange boots danced through a hapless defence on Friday night, and England must be organised and resilient if they are to contain him.

There's also the issue of possession, as Ukraine will look to dominate the game and break the visitors down through long spells of pressure. It's here that Lambert provides a safety valve, with the ability to turn a hopeful clearance into something valuable.

He offers more than being a simple target man, however, and his strength and ability to hold the ball up will be invaluable in such a hostile, physical game. He understands how a move develops and knows where his teammates are, with his unselfish play already reaping rewards.

He doesn't offer the same pace as someone like Jermain Defoe or Theo Walcott, but there's a chance Ukraine will try to muscle them off the ball and intimidate them into mistakes.

Lambert is simply the better choice. For the game, the situation and to reward his good performances.

It's going to be a much tougher test of his international credentials, but he's shown nothing so far that suggests he is anything but capable.