The Liverpool captain will lead England at this summer’s showcase event in Brazil – Gerrard’s third World Cup for his country, but it would have been four had it not been for injury in 2002.
2002 (Japan and South Korea)
Gerrard had established himself as a key man for England during the qualifying stages for the 2002 World Cup, forming an impressive partnership with Paul Scholes in the centre of midfield. His display in the 5-1 win over Germany, in which he scored a superb long-range effort, was particularly outstanding.
At 21, he was one of the shining lights of English football, and big things were expected of him in Japan and South Korea.
Devastatingly for the young Liverpool star, he picked up a groin injury on the final day of the 2001/02 Premier League season against Ipswich, and the surgery it required ruled him out of the tournament.
It was a huge blow for both Gerrard and England, and the tournament lost one of Europe’s most promising players.
Gerrard came into the 2006 World Cup right at the peak of his powers. He had enjoyed a superb season for the Reds, and just a month previously he produced a virtuoso display to win Liverpool the FA Cup against West Ham.
In the eyes of many he was among the top two or three midfielders in world football at this point, and many tipped him to shine in Germany. It was to end in more disappointment, however.
After a fairly quiet opening game against Paraguay, Gerrard, then 26, scored his first ever World Cup goal with a thunderous effort in a win 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago.
Having started on the bench for the final group game against Sweden, manager Sven-Goran Eriksson didn’t want to risk him as a booking would see him earn a one-match ban, he was introduced in the second-half and scored a terrific header to put the Three Lions 2-1 up.
In true England style they conceded in stoppage time to deprive them of victory, however.
A win over Ecuador in the last-16 saw England and Gerrard face Portugal in the quarter-finals. After 120 minutes without a goal, in which Gerrard had produced a typically gutsy display for 10-man England, it was left to penalties to decide proceedings.
A month previously, Gerrard had fired home his spot-kick in the shootout against West Ham with total confidence, but this time around he fluffed his lines. His failure from the spot, along with misses from Frank Lampard and Jamie Carragher saw Eriksson’s men eliminated.
2010 (South Africa)
Injury to captain Rio Ferdinand on the eve of the tournament saw manager Fabio Capello give Gerrard the armband. He would eventually get the captaincy on a permanent basis.
A disappointing season for Gerrard, both in terms of individual and team form – Rafa Benitez’s side had finished 7th – saw him come into the tournament not firing on all cylinders by his incredibly high standards.
The tournament could not have started any better for him though. His well-taken early goal against USA in the opening game got his side off to a flier. They would eventually draw 1-1.
Two pitiful performances by England followed – a goalless draw against Algeria and a 1-0 win over Slovenia – and although Gerrard was far from his best, he was still arguably England’s best player. In a way, that almost sums up his whole international career.
Germany awaited in the second round, and the match was to be one of Gerrard’s, and England’s, most disappointing at a World Cup.
The 30-year-old Reds legend did at least cross for Matthew Upson to head home, with England 2-0 down at that point, but they went on to lose 4-1. Many felt it spelled the end of Gerrard’s international career.
Four years ago, not many would have expected Gerrard to still be in the England side, but even fewer would have predicted he would still be one of the first names on the team-sheet. His goal against Poland in the final qualifier sealed his side’s place in Brazil.
He has had an absolutely superb season, reinventing himself as a deep-lying playmaker and inspiring Liverpool to a second-place finish in the Premier League. He, along with fellow Reds Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge are integral to their country’s chances in South America.
He will turn 34 by the time the competition starts on June 12th, and there is every chance he will retire from international football after the tournament, in order to concentrate solely on Liverpool.
Gerrard will want to go out with a bang, especially after a disappointing experience of World Cups up to now. It would be just like him to produce something special as a final act.
What’s your favourite Steven Gerrard World Cup memory? Let us know in the comments section below.