National pride will come to the fore at the 2014 World Cup, but that won’t taint many Liverpool fans’ pleasure if Luis Suarez overshadows Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney this summer.
The two all-action forwards will go head-to-head when England meet Uruguay in the group stage, and Roy Hodgson has warned Rooney he will have no excuse if he fails to perform.
The England boss said of Rooney, per ESPN:
Maybe once or twice in the past I think I can say without fear of contradiction that on the world stage he hasn't exploded as he has on our national stage, where we all accept him as an outstanding player.
I hope with Wayne, and certainly the message to him is: 'This is your chance. Sure, you'll be a bit tired, but so will Luis Suárez and David Luiz and various other players, because they are also playing in the Premier League and playing every game, like you.
These players will be equally tired. Luis Suárez is not going to be any fresher than Wayne Rooney. Wayne has had an enforced break through injury. You could argue he's had a winter break, which some players didn't get.
Rooney ended England’s World Cup qualifying campaign as top scorer, having netted seven times. However, he has an unwanted history of failing to produce in major international tournaments.
Having exploded on to the scene as a teenager at Euro 2004—where he netted a memorable brace against Switzerland—Rooney failed to score at the 2006 World Cup and was sent off in the quarter-finals.
There was more frustration at the 2010 World Cup when Rooney took his annoyance out on the nation's booing supporters, saying "Nice to see your home fans boo you, that's loyal supporters," per the Telegraph.
He then got himself suspended for the opening two games of Euro 2012, scoring against Ukraine upon his return before failing to show up in England's quarter-final loss to Italy.
After that tournament, former England boss Fabio Capello said the following of Rooney, per Martin Lipton of the Daily Mirror:
After watching the last game I think that Rooney understands only Scottish. That's because he only plays well in Manchester, where Sir Alex Ferguson speaks Scottish.
Much like many of England's top stars over the years, Rooney's inability to perform consistently well in major tournaments has dented the Three Lions' reputation on the world stage.
Suarez's international career also tells a dramatic story. Most notoriously of all, he scored three goals at the 2010 World Cup before rescuing his team with a handball off the line during the quarter-final tie with Ghana.
The Liverpool forward was sent off but celebrated manically after watching Asamoah Gyan smash the crossbar with the resulting penalty kick. Suarez called his instinctive stop the "save of the tournament" after the match, reported by BBC Sport.
Unlike Rooney, Suarez has won a major tournament with his nation. He scored four goals and captured the Player of the Tournament gong on Uruguay's way to winning the 2011 Copa America, netting in the 3-0 final win over Paraguay.
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He failed to score during the 2012 London Olympics and was unable to link up with Edinson Cavani in a disappointing showing for the South Americans. Uruguay were eliminated at the first group stage after beating United Arab Emirates, then losing to Senegal and Great Britain.
Suarez became Uruguay's all-time top scorer during the 2013 Confederations Cup, per Yahoo! Eurosport. He scored a memorable free-kick during the opening 2-1 loss to Spain and followed this with a duo of goals from the bench in the 8-0 whooping of Tahiti.
His individual success continued into qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, where Suarez finished top scorer with 11 goals.
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The 27-year-old is currently the top scorer in this year's Premier League season with 23 goals in 21 games, per WhoScored.com. Rooney has nine in 21 appearances but has also enjoyed nine assists compared to Suarez's eight.
Suarez's play has been defined by confidence this season, as noted by Liverpool's ascension to fourth place in the English division. Rooney is part of a struggling United squad who are unlikely to qualify for next season's Champions League.
Both players will be determined to make a huge impression on the Brazilian stage, but in the searing South American heat, it is Suarez who is best placed to finish the tournament with plaudits.