After seeing the 27-year-old find the net with alarming ease from a range of distances and unlikely angles all season, I was initially fearful of what he might do at the World Cup. I was fearful of what he might do to England.
A quick look at social media sites in the wake of the news regarding Suarez’s injury and possible absence from the World Cup indicates I’m not the only one concerned about lethal Luis and what he’s capable of doing to England’s potentially shaky back line. A sizable number of supporters appear to be embracing his apparent misfortune, an element of relief perhaps that it wasn’t one of England’s star performers set to miss out for a change, but the over-arching consensus was clear. A Suarez-free Uruguay will make qualification from Group D easier for England.
Well, perhaps. Anyone with the slightest interest in football will have seen or heard about Suarez’s goal-scoring exploits this year. He’s in the form of his life with every ball unfortunate enough to collide with his boot seemingly ending up in the opposition net. He’s now one of the biggest names in football for the right reasons and he’d undoubtedly relish the opportunity to enhance his reputation further by giving England a good hiding.
I’m perhaps in the minority and if he’s honest, Joe Hart would probably disagree with me, but I think Suarez missing out wouldn’t be the positive development many seem to think. Of course, a World Cup denied the presence of one of the best players in the world would be a poorer one for it, but I think it has the potential to have a negative impact on England, too.
The last World Cup in South Africa was a low point for England, a brutal illustration of its frailties and failings. The Three Lions turned in an uninspiring performance against the USA and followed it up by playing their part in one of the worst games in World Cup history – a 0-0 draw with Algeria. In truth, this was simply the continuation of a worrying trend, with England regularly failing to raise its game against what are perceived to be weaker opponents.
It’s for this reason I was pleased to see England handed a tough draw in this World Cup. Opening games don’t come much tougher than Italy, leaving Roy Hodgson’s team in no doubt that it has to hit the ground running if it is to progress. The same goes for the match against Uruguay. Lose it and there’s a real possibility that the squad will have plenty of time for sightseeing during the knockout stage of the tournament.
I don’t expect England to win the World Cup, but I expect them to perform. I expect them to show improvement. In Hodgson they have a manager with invaluable tournament experience and he’ll have his charges well-drilled and prepared, but my fear is that any distraction, any deviation from the plan could have a negative impact on their showing in Brazil. We’ve been there before, watching on in horror as the national team manages to get embroiled in off-field distractions before performing badly on the pitch. WAGS, injuries, suspensions, they’ve all played a part in England’s sub-par showings at past tournaments.
I want this time to be different. Focus on the job in hand and don’t get caught out by thinking Uruguay is an easier game without Suarez involved. Don’t fall into the trap of making an opposition player an issue. With or without him lining up against England, this is the World Cup and there are no shortcuts to success.
Mike Parkin is a lifelong football fan, a season ticket holder at Watford FC and a fervent supporter of the England national team. Mike presents the popular Watford FC podcast ‘From the Rookery End’ and will be documenting his trip to the World Cup on the website www.fromtherookeryend.com. You can also see Mike’s images on Instagram (RookeryEnd) and interact directly with him on Twitter by following @RookeryMike.