Villain to many, Suarez is Uruguay's leading man

2014-06-20T00:00:00Z 2014-07-05T05:43:34Z Villain to many, Suarez is Uruguay's leading manDave Ord Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 20, 2014 12:00 am  • 

SAO PAULO

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez compared Thursday’s match to a movie.

If it was a movie, Uruguay’s 2-1 win over England at Arena Corinthians was like a Fellini film. You’re not sure what happened, and the ending wasn’t neat and tidy like a Hollywood blockbuster.

And the hero to many and antagonist to many more was a talented forward, Luis Suarez, whose past is more checkered than a Croatian team jersey.

The 27-year-old has bitten opponents in two different matches and was suspended for eight matches after racially abusing a foe.

In a 2010 World Cup quarterfinal, he used his hand to block a ball while standing on his goal line to stop a certain Ghana goal in extra time. Uruguay went on to win in penalties and earn a semifinal berth.

No such incidents happened Thursday that we know of, but he still was the villain to at least half the crowd.

To the dismay of England fans, he ruthlessly converted two of the few chances he had on the day — the first on a defensive mistake, the second on a deflection — to pretty much end the Three Lions’ chances of advancing.

To the Brazilian fans, he allowed a continental opponent they don’t care for – Brazilians haven’t forgiven Uruguay for beating them in the 1950 World Cup final — to stay alive in the 2014 version.

“If this was a movie, people probably couldn’t have wished for a better result, at least in Uruguay,” Tabarez said through a translator. “We have won after the failure in the first match. We have been able to beat a European team after a long, long time. Many people said that we wouldn’t be able to do so.

“Both goals were scored by Luis Suarez, a player who was injured a month ago. He had to undergo surgery. So, for us, this game was loaded with symbols.”

It was also loaded with tension. Both teams had come away losers in their opening matches — Uruguay was stunned 3-1 by Costa Rica and England fell 2-1 to Italy – and realized that they needed to get points to have any real chance of reaching the next round.

Suarez, who did not start in his team’s opener after having arthroscopic knee surgery May 22 and was seen in a wheelchair as little as two weeks ago, said he dreamed of having this type of match. (Cue the Fellini dream sequence.)

For England coach Roy Hodgson, the nightmare was that he believed his team played well enough to win.

“I thought we controlled Suarez well in general play,” Hodgson said.

“Quite frankly for long periods of the game we kept him quiet. … Two chances came his way, and as a top player he took both chances.”

Suarez scored on an exceptional header in the first half and broke a 1-1 tie with a right-footed strike from a tight angle that whistled over goalkeeper Joe Hart’s shoulder in the 85th minute.

In that same area, England failed, even with four strikers up front.

Wayne Rooney had a header hit the bar in the first half and scored to tie the match in the 75th minute, but just about every other England effort was lukewarm to weak.

Uruguay’s win kept the home continent’s dominance going, with South America teams taking all five of their matches against European foes.

For Uruguay, hope is still alive. It has three points. Costa Rica and Italy, who face off today, also have three each.

“We have been able to prove that we still can fight, that we are alive,” Tabarez said. “But please remember we have not qualified yet.”

Meaning the film could still have some twist and turns, and the ending is still far from written.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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