All eyes on the fit­ness of Suarez, but his tal­ented coun­try­men are ca­pa­ble of get­ting through with­out him

The Herald - Herald Sport - - WORLD CUP 2014 - JAMES CAMP­SIE

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.

Pic­tures: Ap/getty Im­ages

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

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