Steven Gerrard has warned England’s young players that there is “no hiding place” for a team that comes home early from the World Cup finals on the eve of the make-or-break tie with Uruguay.
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The England captain spoke to the squad on Sunday after the 2-1 defeat to Italy, and reminded them that while they had performed well, they could not lose to Uruguay in Sao Paulo. Gerrard and vice-captain Frank Lampard were invited to speak by manager Roy Hodgson after the squad debriefing. Gerrard told his team-mates that they did not want the experience of going home early.
“I told them basically just to be really proud of the effort and commitment we gave against Italy, who are a difficult side and not to get too down with the result,” Gerrard said. “Going into this game, they have to realise it could be a terrible long, frustrating summer if we don’t get it right [against Uruguay]. There is no hiding place for a player when you go out of a tournament. You go home earlier than you expect. It can be tough as a player and it can take an awful long time to get over it.
“A lot of people in the dressing room know that but it was important for a few young lads to realise what is at stake and how important this game is. We all need to leave everything on that pitch. If a defeat was to happen it is probably the most difficult place to be in as a footballer.
“I have been there. I have had that feeling. So I know what that is about and that is the feeling that I don’t want, come Friday morning. It wasn’t a message to scare any of the lads but a wake-up call to everyone in the room; to the staff and players.
“Me and Frank have been there and done it so I suppose our experience at times is very important in the dressing room. It wasn’t to scare anyone or intimidate anyone but that is the reality of where we are. We need everyone focused and right to perform individually and collectively otherwise it will be a terrible, long summer.”
Nevertheless, Gerrard was upbeat about England’s prospects in the Arena Corinthians. He said that the mood of confidence in the squad had recovered quickly in the days after losing to Italy and that the attacking flair that the side had showed in that game would stand them in good stead for the Uruguay game.
“You can wake up on Friday morning with three points and feel on top of the world. That is what playing football at this level is. That’s why I love it so much. Of course, I would love more points sitting here now, but we haven’t got them so the reality is we have to go and find them. I have confidence and belief that we can get two results in the next two games.”
Gerrard is convinced that his Liverpool team-mate Luis Suarez will play “some part” in the game. “I am not sure how long because he has not played a competitive match for five weeks but – having watched news channels and had a bit of banter with Luis – I get the impression he’s going to play,” Gerrard said. “He is looking forward to it. I know him better than most. He will be desperate to play well and score.
“Obviously it [the communication between them] has to remain private but he is a very confident guy, he is looking forward to this game, he plays in our country and this match means an awful lot to him. He is desperate to win it. That is the impression I get.”
Does Gerrard respond to Suarez? “No, I am more of a listener! I just soak it up. I have fallen into that trap where you pipe up at the wrong time. It has been respectful banter. Speaking to Luis from the moment the draw was made – he respects our national team, he knows we have got good players and we are a dangerous team and vice versa. You have got two good sides with everything to play for.”