16 Jun 2014

Boss insists: 'Wonderful LFC star is not as good as 'top-class' Milan legend. Agree?

After a deserved 2-1 defeat to Italy over the weekend, and Uruguay up next, England face the embarrassing prospect of being knocked out of the World Cup in the group stage, something that (amazingly) hasn't happened since 1958. The heat is well and truly on for England, and Roy Hodgson is trying to divert the pressure onto the shoulders of Liverpool star Luis Suarez.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Hodgson suggested that the pressure is on £70m-rated Suarez to prove himself during the tournament. He noted:

"He [Suarez] is a wonderful footballer, but to be one of the all-time greats you have got to do it at the World Cup.

"If you are really going to put him up there with Maradona, Pele, Beckenbauer and Cruyff and Pirlo [recently described by Hodgson as 'top class'], this is the stage you have got to do it on"

Feeble attempt at mind-games aside, I totally agree with Hodgson here, and it's an argument I've been making for years. International tournament football is the most pressurised level of football, and only players with the strongest mentality can deal with that pressure, and consistently perform.

The likes of Messi, Suarez, Gerrard, Ronaldo etc can never be considered true greats of the game until they dominate a major international tournament and/or push their respective teams to World Cup glory.

By my personal definition, a case be made to for all four of the aforementioned players being 'world class', but none of them are on the level of Maradona, Zidane, or Pirlo.

Just ask Lionel Messi. Goal aside, the world's best player failed to reach the expected heights during Argentina's game against Bosnia, and afterwards, he admitted that he felt 'anxiety and nerves' during the game. Remember, this is a player who's won everything in the domestic game, and plays in one European football's most pressurised environments.

At the World Cup, players like Messi, Neymar, Gerrard et al literally have the hopes and dreams of an entire nation on their shoulders, and the ability to produce world class, game-changing form in those circumstances is the mark of the true greats.

By comparison, the Champions League is child's play.

So far, none of the world's so-called best players have dominated, but with Ronaldo and Suarez to come, that may change over the next few days. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Suarez in action, and hopefully, he'll be fit enough to tear England apart on Thursday.

I am vehemently anti-cheating, but it will be incredibly amusing if England get knocked out as a result of Suarez cheating, and I look forward to the irony of Liverpool fans bitching about the injustice of it all after endlessly defending, condoning, and encouraging the Uruguayan's gamesmanship over the last four years.



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