All eyes on the fitness of Suarez, but his talented countrymen are capable of getting through without him
LUIS SUAREZ provided one of the most iconic images of the 2010 World Cup, jubilantly reeling away into the tunnel as Ghana thumped the bar with a penalty awarded as a result of the Uruguayan’s timely punch on the line in the dying moments of their quarter-final.
And just as the Liverpool striker stole all the media attention four years ago, the column space and cameras have once again been solely fixed on him as Uruguay prepare for their opening tie against Costa Rica.
This time, instead of the questionable use of his hands, it is the 27-year-old’s knee attracting a mixture of concern for Uruguay and relief for his Group B opponents. An operation in late May to repair meniscus damage cast major doubts over Suarez’s availability for the World Cup and it is likely he will be rested today for what is widely perceived as Uruguay’s easiest test in the group stages.
However, the widespread hysteria concerning the Barclays Premier League top scorer’s fitness seems to undermine an extremely strong and experienced Uruguay side who can pose a threat regardless.
Their firepower without the divisive forward is hardly lacklustre with Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan expected to form a front pairing tonight in Fortaleza.
Forlan, who now plies his trade in the Japanese A-League, scooped up the Golden Ball award for the best player at the 2010 World Cup and played a key role in Uruguay’s 2011 Copa America triumph.
While the former Manchester United man is an ageing force at 35, his set piece prowess and propensity to pull out vital goals in the biggest games is undeniable.
Equally, his strike partner Edinson Cavani boasts an enviable goal scoring record, hitting the net 25 times in 43 games in his debut season for Paris Saint-Germain.
instant before taking a penalty could open my mind so marvellously and give me this higher understanding. I saw the inner workings of a motor car that was imperfect, full of defects, badly driven, old and worn, and yet utterly unique. Italy’s a country you love precisely because it’s like that.
My penalty went in. Even if I’d missed, the lesson would have remained. Perhaps it would actually have been amplified by the resulting desperation. It’s incredible to know
The £55m man’s hold-up ability and link play is worthy of respect, even if he does not have Suarez to collect his knock-downs. Behind them, in midfield, reside the tigerish Walter Gargano, pacy Atletico Madrid winger Cristian Rodriguez and the tricky Gaston Ramirez.
The battle-hardened defensive duo of Diego Godin and captain Diego Lugano have struck up a lengthy relationship based on strong tackling and aerial domination. Atletico defender Godin will have caught many an eye with his heroic that what you’re feeling is shared by millions of people in the same way, at the same time, for the same reasons, in cities that moments before were rivals or at least too dissimilar to find any sort of common ground. That lukewarm shiver a second before I stuck the ball in the net is the most vivid sensation I’ve ever felt.
We’d talk about those moments in the months afterwards. I soon discovered I wasn’t the only one who performance in the Champions League final against Real Madrid where every ball into the danger area seemed effortlessly swept clear.
On Wednesday, he seemed undeterred by the prospect of entering the world’s showpiece competition without Suarez for a short period. “We have been together practically eight years, we have been through a lot,” he said. “We are ready for the good and the bad.”
Lugano, his partner, is transformed in light blue, strong displays in qualifying and the Confederations had come back from Germany with lofty topics of conversation.
That penalty also helps define me. As usual, nobody will believe me but, in my own mind, I’m much more the Pirlo who stuck the ball down the middle at World Cup 2006 than the Pirlo of the inspired chip against England in the quarterfinals of Euro 2012. Even if the motivation was the same in both cases: selecting the best option to minimise the risk of error. Cup a far cry from those during a inconsistent season with West Bromwich Albion.
He took to Twitter on Thursday to issue a rallying call as the opening match kicked off.
“It’s a characteristic of Uruguayan football that we rise from the ashes,” he said. “In the toughest moments, we become even more united.”
While Uruguay will hope Suarez comes out on top in his battle for fitness as he resumes training, there is hope beyond the man who continues to hog the headlines.
the Juventus midfielder says it was this one which defined him more than the Panenka against England.
Pirlo: I think therefore I play, published by BackPage Press is available in all good book shops or at backpage press.co.uk