Desmond Kane

Gerrard sits beneath Pirlo and Lahm purely because he is English

Desmond Kane

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The contrast could not have been greater.

While the Germany captain Philipp Lahm was hoisting the World Cup above his head in Brazil, Steven Gerrard could be discovered soaking up some rays in Ibiza.

He was not alone on the Spanish holiday island, a million miles away from the madding crowds of the knock-out phase.

The imperious Andrea Pirlo of Italy and Juventus could also be found signing autographs on a family holiday in Ibiza, posing for pictures in the sea with excited fans.

At World Cups, winners only need apply. England and Gerrard wound up as real losers with one point from three matches seeing them depart as Group D's bottom-placed side. Unlike Germany, England have become used to a culture of losing.

It was ironic that both Gerrard and Pirlo washed up in the same destination only a few weeks after facing each in the Amazonian city of Manaus.

Despite Italy's 2-1 win over England in their Group D opener, both countries, both World Cup winners, were bundled out in the group stage of the tournament.

For Pirlo and Gerrard, the end of doomed campaigns signalled mixed emotions.

[GERRARD CALLS TIME ON INTERNATIONAL CAREER]

Pirlo has reversed his initial decision to retire on 112 caps, saying he will be available to participate in the Euro 2016 qualifiers. For Gerrard, a 14-year journey wearing the Three Lions stops here.

At least Pirlo has the knowledge of having lifted the World Cup back in 2006. Lahm decided to retire at the very top earlier this week with 113 appearances behind him.

Within hours of helping to end Germany's 24-year wait to become reacquainted with football's biggest trophy, he decided his work was done.

You should never look at what the other man has, but a figure like Gerrard has every right to study men like Pirlo and Lahm, and wonder why he never rejoiced in such riches?

It surely cannot solely be down to being born in Whiston rather than Munich or Flero.

It terms of ability and class, it is not as if Gerrard was inferior to such figures.

Sven-Goran Eriksson managed England's 'Golden Generation' between 2001 and 2006, and described him earlier today as the complete player.

Gerrard was one of the world's leading midfielders at the peak of his rampaging powers. He remains a leader for Liverpool, but the international game has not been kind to him.

Certainly not as beneficial to him as Pirlo and Lahm. Lifting the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005 remains the most protruding moment of his career.

But that was unexpected. England and Gerrard expected a trophy during the period between 2002 and 2006.

It was probably prompted by the 5-1 walloping of Germany in a World Cup qualifier in 2001 in Munich.

Gerrard sent a flaming shot from distance into the net that night, the first of 21 goals for his country, but the 'Golden Generation' never quite managed to make good on the promise of one prized win over their old enemies.

They lost in the quarter-final stage to Brazil in 2002 and Portugal on penalties in 2006. They also succumbed to Portugal on penalties in Euro 2004 before Sven headed off lamenting some ill fortune.

Installed as captain by Roy Hodgson after Fabio Capello had somehow bestowed the role upon Scott Parker, Gerrard was party to England's dash to the last eight of Euro 2012.

But defeat on penalties to Italy leave him having failed to make it beyond the last eight of any tournament with his country.

It wasn't the way he would have wanted it. And neither was his sickening parting shot.

His last meaningful contribution as player for his country was seeing a ball spin off the back off his head that enabled Luis Suarez to race clear of the England defence to sink Uruguay's clincher in a 2-1 win in Sao Paulo.

"He's the best player I've played with," said Suarez afterwards.

By the time Gerrard led England out to face Costa Rica, the game was up for him and the national side.

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A 0-0 draw from a dead rubber was all England had to show for their all their travails in qualifying for the World Cup finals over the previous two years.

Not that he was to blame for his country's demise.

England's continuing failure at elite tournaments lies in a lack of investment in youth and an apparent lack of willingness to regulate a Premier League that Gerrard operates in.

He is one of the few England players performing at the levels required to represent the national side, but that is an argument for another day.

And one that is unlikely to be solved until the Football Association decide to rescue the national sport from a Premier League bulging with millionaires from overseas that don't give a toss about England's ongoing inability to match up to countries of a similar size.

Individually and collectively, England's ill-fated sojourn to Brazil will have left a sour taste in the mouth of Gerrard.

He can hardly be blamed for deciding to focus on Liverpool for however his legs hold up from here on in.

[REACTION TO GERRARD'S DECISION]

England's campaign in Brazil was a chastening experience for all concerned. As much of a downer for Gerrard as falling over seconds before Demba Ba dashed clear to score as Chelsea all but buried Liverpool's Premier League aspirations in April.

With Gerrard gone, Wayne Rooney is the last of the 'Golden Generation' from the previous decade.

Gerrard joins David Beckham (115), Ashley Cole (107) and Frank Lampard (106) as part of an era who broke the 100-cap barrier. Rooney is on 95, and should pass 100 caps during the Euro 2016 qualification process.

Earning a century of caps for your country remains an astonishing achievement for any footballer.

But it is as remarkable as it is likely to get when England's national side remains so unremarkable.

Desmond Kane

About Desmond Kane
Desmond has covered several sports at the highest level, including Champions League football and Major championship golf. Desmond is well travelled and well versed in the nuances of sport having written for Reuters, Australian Associated Press and the Press Association. He has lived and worked in Detroit, Glasgow, Sydney, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and London. Desmond returned from a spell working as a sports columnist in the Middle East to join Eurosport.

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