SAO PAULO (AP) — At England's beachside hotel in Rio de Janeiro it was captain Steven Gerrard who tried to raise the spirits of his demoralized England teammates. They hadn't been outplayed by Italy in their World Cup opener — far from it — but still go into Thursday's game with Uruguay on zero points in Group D.
Addressing the squad, Gerrard told them to be "really proud of the effort and commitment," but the 112-cap veteran also delivered a warning: lose against Uruguay and they are bound to be back on the plane to England next week.
"Realize it could be a terrible long, frustrating summer if we don't get it right on Thursday," Gerrard recalled telling the team on Sunday night.
"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."
Gerrard knows that only too well, having never progressed further than the quarterfinals at two World Cups and two European Championships with England.
"It wasn't a message to scare any of the lads but a wake-up call to everyone in the room, staff, players," Gerrard said. "That is the reality of where we are and we need everyone focused and right on it to perform individually and collectively on Thursday."
There is confidence in the England camp, with the players taking heart from the glowing praise back home following the spirited attacking endeavor displayed by the newcomers in the 2-1 loss to Italy.
"Two years ago against the same opposition in Italy we got criticized for being on the edge of our own box, showing no bravery or ambition going forward," Gerrard said. "Anyone who watched Saturday's game can't point a finger at England for lacking commitment, desire, guts and bravery going forward.
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