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COUNTDOWN 15: Enigmatic Suarez to lead Uruguay’s assault in familiar territory

COUNTDOWN 15: Enigmatic Suarez to lead Uruguay’s assault in familiar territory
May 30
11:12 2014

Mercurial Suarez or Cannibal Suarez? Love him or hate him, he delivers on all fronts.

Be it catching a shot like a goalkeeper, falling like a pack of cards without being touched, instigating racial abuses, biting off an opponent’s hand, scoring unbelievable goals or tapping them in with ease, this enigmatic Uruguayan will turn heads in Brazil.

Luis Suarez’s bad-boy status precedes his Liverpool era, but the zenith of his misdemeanours was the re-enactment of the ‘Hand of God’ to the chagrin of Ghana and Africa at the last World Cup.

However, this season has seen a much-improved Suarez from the footballing perspective. Despite missing the start of the season to complete his 10-game ban, the 26-year-old scored an amazing 31 league goals to share the European Golden Shoe award with Cristiano Ronaldo, and was also named the PFA Player of the Year — the first for a non-European.

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Although Uruguay struggled in qualifying for the World Cup, it was Suarez’s goals — he emerged the highest goal scorer in the South American qualification section with 11 goals — that saw the nation scrap into the play-offs where they defeated Jordan 5-0 on aggregate to make Brazil.

Uruguay have a rich history in the world cup, qualifying 11 times and reaching the second stage in all but three attempts. They have a 100% record in the final, winning the mundial twice — first in its inaugural edition in 1930. However, it is their second triumph in 1950 that causes nightmares for Brazilians who hosted the tournament. As favourites and with several stars, they were defeated by the Uruguayan underdog. The Sky Blue Ones, La Celeste, will be hoping for a repeat after coming back to reckoning in recent years. They finished fourth in South Africa 2010 and they have the nucleus of the team that was stopped by the Netherlands at the semi-final stage.

Suarez — the all-time goal scorer on 39 goals — Edison Cavani, Fernando Muslera, Maxi Pereira, Cristian Rodríguez, and the talented veteran, Diego Forlan, will lead a new generation of talented youngsters such as Cristian Rodríguez, Sebastián Coates, Gastón Ramírez and Abel Hernández.

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These two generations have been nurtured and gelled by the man known as El Maestro (the Teacher) to the fans. Oscar Tabarez is in his second spell since 2006, and has returned the country among the best footballing nations. The 66-year-old led Uruguay to a fourth-place finish in 2010, and a record 15th Copa America crown in 2011.

He has seamlessly overseen the transition of the team after the World Cup, introducing new talent while keeping the veterans for experience.

Strength

Attack will be the best form of defence for this team with the talent of Suarez, Cavani and Forlan. Also, Monaco’s Cristian Rodríguez’s playmaking skills will be a valuable asset, as he will be the service man for both strikers.

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Weakness

The defence is aged and lacks pace — cue Diego Lugano — while Martin Cecares is highly error-prone and big teams will pounce on this very apparent weakness.

Last Line

Struggling against the likes of Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia can be forgiving, but Italy and England will not in the group stage. The team therefore needs to raise its game to have a chance of conquering the tournament’s group of death.

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