Gerrard - along with vice-captain Frank Lampard and manager Roy Hodgson - addressed the squad after the 2-1 defeat to Italy, and reminded them there is now little margin for error.
If England lose against Uruguay, only a highly unlikely set of circumstances will allow them to progress, while a draw would leave them relying on other results.
"It was important for them to realise what is at stake and how important this game is," Gerrard said. "We have got a must-win scenario.
"It wasn't a message to scare any of the lads but a wake-up call to everyone in the room - the staff and the players."
"It could be a terrible long, frustrating summer if we don't get it right on Thursday. There is no hiding place for a player when you go out of a tournament.
"It can be tough as a player and it can take an awful long time to get over it. I have been there. I know what that feeling is about and that is the feeling that I don't want come Friday morning.
"We need everyone focused and right on it on Thursday, otherwise it will be a terrible, long summer."
Gerrard is excited by the attacking mentality that was evident against Italy - and he expects more of the same against Uruguay in Sao Paulo.
"I know what is going to happen going forward," Gerrard said. "That is a gimme with the attacking talent we have got in this group.
"We have belief and confidence from our attacking play against Italy, and I believe will cause our next two opponents endless problems."
"But for me the key in this game is how we defend because Uruguay's strengths are in their front players: (Edinson) Cavani, (Luis) Suarez, (Diego) Forlan, and (Gaston) Ramirez.
"They are the key players who can hurt this England team. It is no good us being really good going forward on the break if we can't defend properly."
Having played alongside Suarez for the last three years, Gerrard knows how much damage the forward can do.
"If I walk past him in the tunnel I will say hello and shake his hand but at that moment I am not really looking for friends or team-mates," Gerrard said.
"He knows that once that whistle blows there is no friendship at all between me and Luis Suarez for 90 minutes."
England's only absentee tonight is Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain. The Arsenal man returned to training this week after injuring knee ligaments in the World Cup warm-up clash with Ecuador two weeks ago, but was restricted to fitness work away from his team-mates on Wednesday.
However, Hodgson expects the 20-year-old to be available for England's final group game against Costa Rica.
"He's not in contention for Uruguay but he will take part in the next full training session," he said.
"At the limit, we could have taken a chance with him but it'll be better to use the four days before the Costa Rica game to train with the team.
"His injury has responded very well to treatment and I don't think we'll put him into the firing line before he has some training sessions with the team."