Steven Gerrard
If this is to be Gerrard's England swansong, it is set to be remembered as a dark hour for the Liverpool skipper.GettyImages

A Steven Gerrard assist followed by an emphatic finish from Luis Suarez. It's a combination that proved one of the most efficient in the Premier League for Liverpool last season. It was one that also proved so despairingly significant in Sao Paulo on Thursday night, much to the dejection of England fans who saw the Three Lions' World Cup fate taken out of their own hands, aided by another aberration at the most inopportune moment from their captain.

Almost three months after the 34-year-old lost his footing against Chelsea in a moment that helped guide the Premier League title towards Manchester City, more self-inflicted misery has unforgivingly followed Gerrard to Brazil. That afternoon on Merseyside will forever be defined by the moment that saw Demba Ba score, and it was one that epitomised a thoroughly wretched performance. Unfortunately for the veteran England midfielder, the wayward header which allowed his Anfield teammate to race onto the ball last night was another microcosm of a woeful display.

Alarm bells were already ringing. Gerrard was utterly absent as Uruguay sauntered through an empty midfield before Edinson Cavani's beautifully clipped though ball was slammed home by Suarez to give Uruguay the lead. As revealed by Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez post-match, the Paris Saint Germain striker diligently stuck to the Liverpool skipper to great effect throughout the evening. But even in the moments where he was afforded the space to conjure inspiration, Gerrard was ineffective.

The glaring naivety of Phil Jagielka that allowed Suarez in for his second cannot be ignored either. The Everton defender's decision to abandon his backline and leave Leighton Baines and Gary Cahill brutally exposed had been resoundingly condemned and provided further evidence that England's best defensive options are still some way away from the level required to operate amongst the elite in world football.

But in this competition, even the most limited of defences can operate providing they have an effective shield in front of them. Given his advancing years and his outstanding leadership qualities, this has been recognised as Gerrard's most effective role in Roy Hodgson's side. But his limitations in such a vital position were thrust under the spotlight in both of Uruguay's goals.

That his wayward header draws comparisons with a catalogue of similar errors which have 'teed up' Thierry Henry and Didier Drogba in the pastm and Ba last season, is largely irrelevant, but the fact they stemmed from his waning powers being exposed in such a pivotal area of the team certainly is.

Gerrard's commitment to the national team cannot be questioned and he is certainly not the only man culpable for Thursday's loss. Roy Hodgson's decision to deploy a two man midfield itself will continue to raise questions, but after the acclaim Danny Welbeck, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge won in their incisive, probing displays against Italy, would the England manager have been hounded for dropping one of them in favour of a third midfielder anyway? Likely.

While their fate may be out of their hands, qualification from Group D is certainly not out of the realms of possibility for England. But such was the post-match despondency of Roy Hodgson and Joe Hart, it's clear expectations within the squad are now even lower than they were coming into the tournament. It will be a shame if Gerrard's final international competition is accompanied by another gloomy memory.