Tabarez hopes to end side’s ‘cursed’ statis­tic

The National - News - - SPORT WORLD CUP 2018 -

Luis Suarez has hugely ma­tured in the four years since he dis­graced him­self at the World Cup by bit­ing an Ital­ian op­po­nent, Uruguay coach Os­car Tabarez said on Thurs­day, mak­ing clear he has high ex­pec­ta­tions of his key striker in Rus­sia.

Suarez, 31, ar­rives at this year’s tour­na­ment look­ing to dis­pel the me­mory of the in­fa­mous bite on Italy’s Gior­gio Chiellini in Brazil in 2014, as well as the goalline hand­ball that earned him a send­ing-off in the quar­ter-fi­nal against Ghana four years ear­lier.

“What hap­pened in Brazil is part of real life and of course it’s been a les­son for him to achieve greater ma­tu­rity not only as a foot­baller but also in other ar­eas away from the foot­ball pitch,” Tabarez told re­porters on the eve of Uruguay’s open­ing match on Fri­day against Egypt.

“He’s pre­pared a lot, he’s got the right mind­set for this World Cup, and I do be­lieve he’s meet­ing all my ex­pec­ta­tions. In ad­di­tion to be­ing a great player, he’s very smart, very in­tel­li­gent, and he comes to the World Cup with a great deal of ma­tu­rity so we are go­ing to re­ally cap­i­talise on him.”

Suarez is Uruguay’s all-time lead­ing scorer and, with strike part­ner Edin­son Ca­vani, is ex­pected to pose the big­gest threat to Egypt’s de­fence in Yekaterinburg.

But Tabarez is wary, es­pe­cially since, as he noted, it has been 48 years since Uruguay won their open­ing game at the World Cup fi­nals.

“It’s a statis­tic, a rather spe­cial one. We think we are cursed, in fact. We have had that track record, but we are ob­sessed about win­ning,” said Tabarez.

He added he was not tak­ing Egypt for granted.

“When the draw hap­pened, I re­mem­ber jour­nal­ists from Uruguay talk­ing about the quar­ter-fi­nals, as if this was a walk in the park and I told them off. We have enor­mous re­spect for our op­po­nents.”

As to his ex­pec­ta­tions for the match, Tabarez who is guid­ing Uruguay at a fourth World Cup, his first be­ing in 1990, said he had learnt to ex­pect the un­ex­pected.

“The team is fine, but no­body knows the his­tory of the game that is go­ing to be played to­mor­row,” he added of tak­ing on Egypt. “There can al­ways be sur­prises.”

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