England captain Steven Gerrard has announced his retirement from international soccer, the Football Association said on Monday.
The Liverpool midfielder won 114 caps for his country after making his debut in a 2-0 win over Ukraine at Wembley in 2000. "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," he told the FA's website (thefa.com). Gerrard's appearance at the World Cup in Brazil last month was the sixth time he had represented England at a major tournament, but it ended in failure as Roy Hodgson's side went out at the group stage.
Gerrard appeared to be particularly affected by the disappointment - never more so than after the 2-1 defeat by Uruguay, when his misjudged header allowed Luis Suarez to score the late winner. The 34-year-old said he was retiring from internationals in part to ensure he can keep playing at a high level for Liverpool. "I'd like to firstly thank my family and friends for all their support throughout my England journey," Gerrard said.
"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 fulfill my childhood dream.
"He has been very understanding over the past few weeks and is a man I will always hold in the highest regard. "This has been a very difficult decision, one of the toughest I've had to make in my career. I have agonised over this since coming back from Brazil and have spoken to family, friends and people close to me in the game before coming to this point.
"Most importantly, Brendan (Rodgers, Liverpool manager) has been fantastic and obviously I have to look after my body as much as possible to ensure I can give everything when I take to the field. "To ensure I can keep playing to a high level and giving everything to Liverpool, I believe this is the right decision, and having Champions League football back at Anfield is another big factor in my decision."
- Incredible Service -
Hodgson told the FA: "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.
"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.
"He is not only a player to bring crowds to their feet with moments of brilliance; he was a tremendous captain and an exceptional role model for everyone who was fortunate to come into contact with him. "We shall miss his leadership qualities as we look ahead to the qualification campaign (for Euro 2016) with a youthful group of players."
Gerrard captained England 38 times, scored 21 goals for his country, and was the third most capped England player of all time behind Peter Shilton (125) and David Beckham (115).
His final appearance was against Costa Rica at the World Cup, when he came on as a 73rd-minute substitute in a 0-0 draw. The FA said Gerrard will continue his strong relationship with the governing body in a "high profile ambassadorial role".
(Writing by Stephen Wood, editing by Ed Osmond)