The Premier League is lauded by its proponents as the best league in the world. While many do not believe the World Cup is the best competition this sport has to offer (the UEFA Champions League is arguably a higher quality), it is a high-level indicator as to a league’s strength. What we have seen from the World Cup is that the Premier League simply isn’t measuring up to the hype.
Some Premier League players such as Tim Howard, Wilfried Bony and Vincent Kompany had good World Cups. Others like Eden Hazard, Steven Gerrard, David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Mesut Özil and Wayne Rooney were largely disappointing. The failures of several great stars from the world’s highest profile and most-watched league has been very telling. On top of that, the Premier League’s top sides have been performing worse over the past few seasons in European competitions, and many have lamented the poor standard of defending in the league.
Every World Cup introduces new stars while unveiling the myth around others. But this World Cup seemed disproportionately disappointing for the Premier League. Even in the United States where Tim Howard became a household name almost overnight, Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron was arguably the worst player in the tournament for team USA.
Meanwhile, ESPN Analyst Craig Burley dissected the performance of Eden Hazard following Belgium’s elimination from the tournament on Sunday, saying the Chelsea winger “showed no interest in the tournament.” Hazard’s performances did indicate a certain disinterest although the long club season may have taken a toll on him.
Host nation Brazil boasts a number of Premier League based players, but none of them have stood out thus far except perhaps David Luiz, who has signed for Paris Saint-Germain. Paulinho, the Spurs midfielder, has been particularly poor, and his replacement in the last two matches, Fernandinho of Manchester City, has not been much better.
Premier League loanees Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell of Costa Rica have had greater impacts on this World Cup then any current English-based player save perhaps Robin Van Persie. This World Cup has also shown in many ways the difficulty of long club seasons in Europe’s top leagues and then transitioning to a hot summer tournament.
Spain, the reigning World and European champions, never got out of second gear in the tournament and went home early. Both clubs that contested the UEFA Champions League Final in Lisbon just 19 days before the World Cup kicked off were from Spain. England failed to record a single victory in three World Cup matches and two pre World Cup friendlies in Miami. Italy’s victory over England was the nation’s first since September, and then was followed by two loses and elimination from the tournament at the Group Stage.
Often times fans and even pundits confuse entertainment for quality. The Premier League has long proven to be the most entertaining league with end-to-end action and quality finishing. But defensively, the league has gotten worse through time and the technical ability of many of the players, particularly the English ones who have gotten poorer in time.
Ultimately what matters to fans is the entertainment level and enjoyment. The Premier League continues to be at the top of the list among leagues when these factors are considered. However, it is difficult following this World Cup and the failures of Premier League clubs in Europe to make a case that it is the top league on the planet.