Uruguay’s Suarez revels in England’s pain
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As Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said after the game, if the country’s defeat of England in the World Cup on Thursday night had been a movie, “people couldn't have wanted a better result, at least in Uruguay”.
Indeed, there was something almost scripted about the win – the high stakes, the returning hero and the last-minute twist – and, inevitably, the leading man was Uruguay’s controversial but brilliant Luis Suarez.
A goal in each half, the first a clever header from close range, the second after latching on to a hopeful Fernando Muslera punt down field flicked on inadvertently by Suarez’s Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard, saw the striker put England to the sword if not quite single handedly, then at least in a manner beyond most other players.
For Suarez though, it was a story of redemption and revenge, a winning performance against a country that, despite voting him player of the year last season, he feels has often been too quick to criticize him.
“I have been thinking about this, it was something I dreamed about happening quite a lot,” he told reporters after the match.
“I’m enjoying this moment, because of all I suffered, the criticism I received.”
Suarez has been involved in a string of controversies since arriving at Liverpool in 2011, most notably a 10-game ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic and an eight-game suspension for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
Suarez: People in England laughed at me
Whether such indiscretions can be rectified with good performances on the football pitch is highly debatable, but Suarez was nonetheless revelling in the pain he had inflicted on the country that has been his home for the past three years.
“Before the game too many people in England laughed about my attitude over the last few years,” he said. “This is a very good time for me. I want to see what they think now.”
England had hoped Suarez’s role in last night’s game would be limited to a cameo at most - the striker having undergone knee surgery just last month and missing the opening game against Costa Rica.
But almost miraculously he recovered in time to make the starting line-up for a Uruguay side that, like England, was desperate for a win to keep their World Cup hopes alive after a disappointing first game defeat.
Unlike England, however, that loss, 3-1 to Costa Rica, came against supposedly weak opposition and was the result of a flat, lethargic display from Uruguay. They seemed lost without their star performer and talisman. His return to action in Sao Paulo was not just a boost to Uruguay’s chances, but essential.
In the end his two goals were typical Suarez – decisive, instinctive, clinical. It was as if he’d never been away.
England had started well enough and looked like going into half-time on an even footing with their opponents. But then, six minutes from the interval, a loose pass from Gerrard put Uruguay on the break, with Nicolas Lodeiro releasing Edinson Cavani down the left.
Suarez managed to ghost his way into the England box unchecked, timing to perfection a run between Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines to latch onto Cavani’s cross and head back past England goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Because sometimes you need a friend to raise...and be stronger. pic.twitter.com/am8IfiO61S— Luis Garcia (@LuchoGarcia14) June 19, 2014
He immediately ran to the sidelines to celebrate with Alberto Pan, the team doctor who had overseen his rehabilitation.
England fought back after the break however. For a moment the story of the night looked like it might be about Wayne Rooney, after the Manchester United striker equalised with a tap in from a Glen Johnson cross 15 minutes from time.
It was the 28-year-old’s 40th international goal, but his first in the finals of a World Cup and his celebration was a mixture of joy and relief. Rooney wore the expression of a man who had just had a massive weight taken off his shoulders.
‘We are more than disappointed, we're devastated’
For a brief spell, it looked as if England would go on to grab the winner as the momentum shifted in their favour. But then Suarez struck once again.
What should have been a fairly innocuous long ball from Muslera skimmed off the head of Gerrard and into Suarez’s path as he raced through on goal, before sending a ferocious shot past Hart and the Uruguay fans into raptures.
“When I saw the ball I closed my eyes and kicked it for all the things I went through, for the people that supported me and it went in,” he said afterwards.
“It was one of the best games I’ve played. It’s an amazing moment for me.”
For England it was heartbreak. Roy Hodgson’s side once again came back from a goal down only to ultimately fall short, as they had done in the 2-1 defeat to Italy in their opening game.
"We are more than disappointed, we're devastated," said Hodgson.
Progression to the next round remains possible, but unlikely, requiring Italy to beat both Costa Rica on Friday and Uruguay next Tuesday.
England would then need to beat Costa Rica in their final game by a big enough margin to go through on goal difference.
Hodgson described his side's chances of remaining in the tournament as "unbelievably slim".
"To be sure of continuing we needed a result today, a draw or a victory, and we didn't get it," he added.