World Cup - Gerrard announces international retirement

At his best a midfield marauder who inspired team-mates and scored goals in equal measure, Steven Gerrard on Monday retired from England duty as the country's third most-capped player after an international career that promised more than it delivered.

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England's Steven Gerrard squats on the pitch after their 2014 World Cup Group D soccer match against Costa Rica at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte June 24, 2014

The 34-year-old, who led the national side in this summer's World Cup which saw them exit the tournament after just two matches, said he had "agonised" over the decision since returning from Brazil.

His relatively disappointing tally of 21 goals in 114 appearances, including several important and some spectacular strikes, reflected one truth about the Liverpool skipper - that, for all his glorious talents, he was ultimately an unfulfilled, if natural and respected, leader for England.

He and his many admirers will hope that his well-struck opening goal in England's 5-1 victory against Germany in Munich in the qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup finals lasts longer in the collective memory than the misplaced header that led to Luis Suarez's second goal in Uruguay's 2-1 win over England at the 2014 finals in Brazil.

That mistake may, however, have proved to be a decisive factor in the decision to end his international career, aged 34, and not risk a prolonged decline in the qualifiers for Euro 2016.

No longer the explosive force of his youth, he had become a pedestrian midfield playmaker who stuggled for the pace and space needed to exploit the range of his right-foot passing or shooting.

As one of a group of promising players dubbed 'the golden generation' by the British media, much was expected of the passionate Liverpudlian, born in Whiston on Merseyside on May 30, 1980.

Tall and athletic, he combined power with technique and an insatiable competitive instinct. Gerrard could play anywhere on the right side of the pitch from full-back to forward, his right-foot shot and passing always catching the eye more than his positional sense, though that improved sufficiently for him to become, in his thirties, a deep-lying holding player.

Having established himself as a midfield powerhouse for Liverpool, his only club, he was given his England debut one day after his 20th birthday when another former Liverpool icon, Kevin Keegan, selected him to face Ukraine on May 31, 2000.

England won 2-0 and Gerrard did enough to secure his passage to the Euro 2000 finals, where he made his major tournament debut, as a substitute for Michael Owen, in a hard-earned 1-0 win over Germany in Charleroi, England's first win over their great rivals since the 1966 World Cup final.

It is a measure of his quality that he featured so prominently in that more spectacular triumph in Munich the following year, when Owen scored a hat-trick, before Germany gained revenge when they beat England 4-1 in Bloemfontein at the 2010 World Cup.

By then, Gerrard - who missed the 2002 World Cup through injury - was captain, a role that appeared to suit him, even if it also limited his freedom in an era of tighter tactics that meant his roving style left gaps, which were punished or left England overstretched.

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Steven Gerrard's England debut, May 2000

"This has been a very difficult decision, one of the toughest I've had to make in my career," he told FATV.

“I have enjoyed every minute of representing my country and it is a sad day for me knowing that I won’t pull on the England shirt again.

"However, I do look forward to continuing my strong relationship with The FA and helping out in any way I can going forward.

“I’d like to firstly thank my family and friends for all their support throughout my England journey.

"I’d also like to thank everyone who has been part of my international career, from the England Managers I’ve played under to the staff at The FA and, of course, all the players I’ve been fortunate to play alongside.

"In particular, the supporters have been amazing, not least in Brazil when they got behind the team despite the disappointing results.

“I’d especially like to thank Roy [Hodgson], firstly for giving me the captaincy permanently when he took the job, making me the proudest man in the country and allowing me to fulfil my childhood dream.

Gerrard admitted Liverpool qualifying for the Champions League once again was a factor in his decision.

"Obviously I have to look after my body as much as possible to ensure I can give everything when I take to the field," said the midfielder who, with 114 caps, is only behind goalkeeper Peter Shilton (124) and David Beckham (115).

"To ensure I can keep playing to a high level and giving everything to Liverpool Football Club I believe this is the right decision, and having Champions League football back at Anfield is another big factor in my decision."

Roy Hodgson has had his say on his now-former skipper.

“While I’m disappointed in the decision, I can entirely understand Steven’s situation and can have no complaints given the incredible service he has given to his country," he said.

"I must respect his wishes due to the discussions we have had and the amount of thought and consideration he himself has given it.

“He is an incredible man and a fantastic footballer who we have all been blessed to see in an England shirt so often. It is never by coincidence that people reach such a staggering figure as 114 caps, it is a mark of his wonderful talent allied to a huge drive and determination to live up to the highest standard.

“I wish him all the best in the future, although I know I can count on his continued support and influence as a helpful presence moving forward."

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Steven Gerrard 100 caps

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