World Cup 2014: nine divers to watch

Soccer gets almost as much attention in America for its flopping as it does for its beautiful play. Sadly, World Cup 2014 probably won’t be any different. Here are some players to keep your eye on.

The 2014 World Cup is upon us, and casual American fans are eagerly awaiting their chance to bitch about all the diving in soccer. Before we get started, two quick observations:

    1. It’s true – there’s a lot of needless flopping in futbol, most of it on the part of Latin players. Trying to get one over on the ref has become a part of the game’s culture in certain places around the globe – like South America and the Iberian peninsula. And Italy. But it isn’t just a Latin problem, as we’ll see below.

  1. It ain’t like there’s no flopping in American sports. Anybody who has watched a Duke basketball game knows that, and Dwyane Wade’s shameful theatrics in last night’s NBA Finals matchup, where he pretended that he got hit in the face to draw a phantom foul, serves to remind us why The League felt it necessary to implement its new and largely ineffective anti-flopping rules.

Just saying. So, let’s dive right in, as it were.

Cristiano Ronaldo. Let’s start with the master, the greatest flopper from the greatest flopping nation in the game. Interesting fact #1: a Google search for [crisitiano ronaldo dives] returns 175,000 results. Interesting fact #2: remarkably, in the history of the Olympic Games, no Portuguese has ever won a medal in diving. Perhaps that’s because the nation’s shining athletic lights turn to football. In any case, Pretty Ronaldo has spent a decade or more establishing an enduring legacy as one of the iconic simulators in the history of the sport. Here’s what you need to know: the best his defenders can muster up is “well, he doesn’t dive as much as he used to.”

Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan striker is one of the world’s most dangerous goal scorers. He’s also one of its most notorious floppers. But the best part about him is that he doesn’t just dive, sometimes he tries to eat people. Which makes him even more dangerous, I suppose.

Arjen Robben. The fleet Dutch winger is an utterly terrifying sight as he bears down on hapless fullbacks. They know he’s going to cut inside. They know there’s no way they can stop it without touchng him. And they know if they do, he’s going down. He does get a bit of a break here, though. Truth is, he’s built like a frail middle-aged accountant and it simply doesn’t take much to knock him over. Still, when he feels contact, he doesn’t dedicate a lot of effort to staying upright.

Wayne Rooney. Shrek is the unlikeliest flopper on the list. He’s a strapping lad from England, a nation that historically doesn’t tolerate diving. But I think playing with Ronaldo for a few years rubbed off on him. Either that or maybe he’s part Portuguese on his mother’s side. Worse, he’s a thug – he can be counted on to deliver the occasional cheap shot at an opponent when he thinks the ref isn’t looking.

Danny Welbeck. If Ronaldo was a bad influence on Roo, perhaps he was, in turn, a bad influence on Man U teammate Kid-n-Play.

Angel Di Maria. Argentina has produced its share of cheaters *cough*Maradona*cough* but Real Madrid’s Di Maria is perhaps the greatest miscreant of the current generation.

Sergio Busquets. Busquets should be carded for diving before each game begins, just to cut down on the inevitable histrionics later on. Of all the scoundrels on this list, he’s perhaps the most shameful because he isn’t even an attacker. He isn’t flopping in goal scoring situations in the box, trying to draw a penalty, he’s hitting the turf like he’s taking sniper fire 50 years from the goal. It’s like being the world’s greatest thief, only you spend all your time shoplifting candy bars down at the Walmart.

Pepe. There are few players on Earth who are more detestable than Portugal’s Pepe. Not only is he a world class thespian, he’s rather a prick, too.

Dani Alves. While they have a rep, the truth is that once you get past a couple of bad actors the Brazilians aren’t that bad when it comes to simulation. But boy, those couple of bad actors. Or in the case of Dani Alves, good actors.

Neymar. If we started the list with football’s established master flopper, it’s only fitting that we close with a glimpse of the future, for surely, some day Neymar will eclipse Ronaldo’s legacy. In fact, at the pace he’s going, he might manage it by the end of the group stage.

In conclusion, yes, this year’s Copa will feature some memorable diving. Let’s hope it also features and equal number of yellow cards. And mostly, let’s hope none of the cheating affects the outcome.

Thanks to my friends in the Rocky Mountain Blues and Shed End Seattle, whose suggestions helped shape this article.

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