Uruguay striker Luis Suárez will go to the World Cup in Brazil on the back of yet another brilliant season for Liverpool, but there are still question marks hanging over his ability to prove that class on the biggest stage. At the time of writing, Suárez boasts the best goalscoring record in Europe. His average of a goal every 0.93 matches is better than that of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. He also broke Robbie Fowler’s club record in the Premier League by scoring his 29th of the season against Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend.
Furthermore, the statistics make for more impressive reading when the five-match he served at the start of the season for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanović at the end of the last campaign, is taken into account. However, Liverpool’s absence from Champions League football since the 2009-2010 season has meant Suárez has rarely been able to pit his wits against the best players in the world.
That is not to say Suárez has not proven his worth at international level. His record of 38 goals in 77 appearances is very respectable. He also scored three in six appearances in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with goals coming against Mexico and South Korea. Yet Suárez was also the villain of the tournament during the quarter-final against Ghana when he blocked Dominic Adiyiah’s header with his hands. Suárez was dismissed and Ghana missed the resulting penalty. The Uruguayans subsequently went through to the semi-final after beating the Africans in a penalty shoot-out. Fans of the underdog and football romantics were cheering for Ghana to go through and Suárez was attacked by the media for destroying the dreams of a nation. His own teammates were knocked out in the semi-final by the Netherlands and again fingers were pointed at the Liverpool man for costing his side a place in the final. It was seen as lack of class on Suárez’s part on the big stage and a bad reputation followed him into the new season with then club Ajax. He knew it was a must to make reparations four years later.
So while Suárez’s rich vein of form points toward a good World Cup, it is important to remember that the English season is the most grueling of all. Not only is there no winter break, a series of games over the Christmas period along with matches in three domestic competitions means players from the Premier League often turn up to summer tournaments suffering from burn out. Former England manager Fabio Capello recently said England is one of the favorites in terms of ability but will struggle to go far because the players “play too many games” at club level during the season.
If Liverpool win the Premier League, Suárez could be on a such a high that he is able to run on empty. If the Reds are pipped at the post, then he will either be go into the tournament carrying that disappointment or will use it to prove his class on the big stage, like he knows he must.
World Cup Preview is a daily series providing commentary and analysis of the teams and players participating in this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd