A “BROKEN” Steven Gerrard is in no position to make an immediate decision on international retirement, with the England captain requiring a couple of weeks to contemplate his future.
Despite heading to Brazil more in hope than expectation, few could have imagined England’s elimination would be confirmed before most teams had played their second matches.
Defeats by Italy and Uruguay were compounded by Costa Rica’s victories over both of those sides, condemning England to a first group-stage exit since 1958.
It is a failure that has hurt skipper Gerrard and has brought forward the questions over his international future.
The 34-year-old Liverpool midfielder said in the build-up that he would make a decision whether to continue after the World Cup, but, with their exit confirmed, the subject came up before tomorrow’s dead rubber against Costa Rica.
“There’s no truth that I’ll be making any announcement within a week,” Gerrard said. “I think I need more time.
“I spoke to the manager this morning and asked him for some time over the summer to consider my future. I certainly won’t be rushing into any decision.
“I don’t feel it is right to make a decision now or in a week’s time. I am still hurting very bad. I’m broken from what has gone on over the last couple of weeks.
“So I need to get away, get on holiday and basically clear my head before I make that big decision.”
Pushed on whether he had a hunch which way the decision was likely to go, Gerrard said: “Not at the moment. I need time.
“I have agreed with the manager that I will speak to him in a few weeks’ time.
“I need to speak to numerous other people who I respect, who will help me and guide me the right way to make a decision. But it is big and I will make it in due course.”
Gerrard spoke alongside manager Roy Hodgson at a packed press conference at the Urca military base, where the midfielder hit back out at assertions the team had been too cosy.
“I understand there are going to be opinions all over the country, different opinions, some backing us moving forwards, some against us,” he said.
“I totally respect that and I am not really in a position to fight some negative opinions at the moment.
“But I have to disagree that the squad has been cosy. We got worked very hard in Portugal and Miami and the preparation as a player certainly means there are no excuses.
“We did everything we can to be able to come out here and perform, do well, but unfortunately it hasn’t happened.”
Gerrard spoke well despite the circumstances, defending the quality of his team-mates, but accepting they “need to toughen up as a group”.
The skipper also dismissed claims by Harry Redknapp that certain individuals during his time at Tottenham tried to find ways of skipping international duty. Gerrard claimed to have “never come across players like that” and highlighted the determination of the current crop, whom he knows owe it to the fans to get a positive result against Costa Rica tomorrow.
“It is a very difficult time to be an England player at the moment,” he said. “Everyone is hurting, everyone is disappointed.
“The message to the supporters is thanks for the support that they have given us, not just at the World Cup but over the last two years helping get us here.
“The players take full responsibility for not winning the two games so far. If there are people out there with strong opinions and want to point fingers and stuff, myself as the leader of this team will take full responsibility, take it on the shoulders.
“All we can do as players is stick together. We agreed before this tournament we would come in and work as hard as we can and try and fight for everything together.
“Now it has gone wrong, we have to shoulder that responsibility together. We can’t allow it to just come on the manager’s shoulders and coaching staff.
“We have to stand tall, be thick-skinned, take it and move on. The important thing is to think about the supporters and supporters only.
“They want a win in the last game and the players want that as well.”
England will offer a glimpse of the future in their final World Cup match against Costa Rica, with Hodgson planning sweeping changes for the clash.
Frank Lampard, James Milner and Rickie Lambert are likely to start in Belo Horizonte, as well as younger members of the squad such as Ross Barkley, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
“I will be picking it with a view to making certain that all the players, if possible, that have been with us here get some minutes on the field of play,” Hodgson said. “I shall be changing the team. It will be a team which will give people that haven’t had much of a chance in the first two games [the chance] to show what they can do.”