There was an additional treat beyond an extra week in Germany for the five England supporters who wore "Gerrard 4" jerseys and drank lager outside Café Amadeus in Baden-Baden's central square yesterday lunchtime. It came in the form of the man himself, who happened to walk by on a well-earned day off with his partner and two young children and politely obliged their requests to add his moniker to robes of honour that were not shaped as nature intended.
By the time Gerrard had completed the 30-metre journey to the fountain on the opposite corner of the square he was under siege from well-wishers but never did he refuse an autograph or the invitation to pose for a photograph. But on England's current form, such moments could soon be over for Gerrard in Germany.
England's leading goalscorer, and one of the few to replicate club form on the international arena this summer, concurs. "We got the job done against Ecuador without playing really well," he said. "But I think we will keep improving... I think the further you go into the tournament, if you perform badly or any worse than we are now, we could go out. We have got to be careful and keep trying to improve."
This, along with a similarly honest appraisal from Wayne Rooney, was as close as the England camp have come to condemning performances that resulted in some supporters falling asleep inside the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion on Sunday, although the beer and soaring temperatures may also have been to blame. It is surely no coincidence that among the few to acknowledge the need for a dramatic improvement in Gelsenkirchen this Saturday were two players - Rooney and Gerrard - who did fulfil their potential against Ecuador, although another who has starred in Germany believes too much emphasis has been placed on form and not on the reality of a quarter-final place.
"Everyone keeps talking about performances, but it is results that win you tournaments," Rio Ferdinand said. "If we get a good performance then that is fantastic, that is what we aim for in every game, but as long as we get the results then that is all that counts. We can be pleased in that we have shown an improvement in every game. If there was a choice I'd rather play well towards the end of a tournament than at the beginning. Ideally you want to be playing well all the way through but we will take reaching the final by any means as long as we get there."
Gerrard shares Ferdinand's assessment that England's performance level did increase in Stuttgart, contrary to general opinion, and cites the inclusion of Michael Carrick in the midfield holding role and David Beckham's reaction to criticism of his contribution against Sweden as pivotal factors.
"David went out with a point to prove and helped us into the last eight. It was a David Beckham trademark and a few more of them would be very nice," said Gerrard. "I spoke to Frank [Lampard] and Michael and we were pleased with how the system got better as the game went on. We got more support to Wayne in the second half. If the final pass had been better a few times, we might have won the game three or four-nil."
It was Rooney's first 90-minute performance since scoring twice at Tottenham on 17 April, however, that Gerrard cites as the main reason why obituaries on England's World Cup campaign may be premature before Portugal. "Wayne got better as the game went on and that was down to the support he got. It will be crucial for the team if he keeps getting fitter. If he gets a goal for his confidence as well then I am sure he can lead us all the way."Reuse content