Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said his team’s World Cup hopes had been ended by Colombia’s quality and not the fallout from the Luis Suarez saga.
An inspired James Rodriguez scored twice for Colombia in the 2-0 win in the second-round game at the Maracana stadium on Saturday and Tabarez was generous in his praise for the victors.
“When you face an opponent that does certain things better than you have to accept that,” the 67-year-old coach told reporters.
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“So we accept defeat, congratulate our opponent and wish them well, as a South American team, for the rest of the tournament,” he added.
Asked whether the four-month suspension of Suarez and the row which followed the biting incident in Uruguay’s final group game against Italy had drained his team of energy, Tabarez was dismissive.
“I don’t know what energy we could have lost on Suarez – we accepted he was suspended, we criticised the excessive harshness of the sanction and that is the feeling of an entire people,” he said.
“The show of football needs players of the quality of Suarez, we tried to defend him, as should be done for people who are part of our group and share the same objectives.
“But when he was no longer able to be with us, that was the end of that, there was no wearing out, we had the energy,” added the Uruguay coach.
In a gentle prod at the foreign media, Tabarez said he was reluctant to discuss Suarez “in front of people who have long had him in their sights” but said the team had been able to re-focus.
“It was among the things we discussed before the match – that we all knew what has happened but we had to stop thinking about it and bring out only the positive things from it,” he said.
“I think that generated a lot of strength and willingness to get a result. Suarez is very important to us, I don’t have to say that but we knew that he was not going to play or be close to us because that was decided by the punishment that was imposed on him,” Tabarez added.
Tabarez said his team knew they would be facing top quality opponents in Colombia but were not able to find a way back into the game after Rodriguez’s stunning opener.
“We knew Colombia would be a very good team and they have very good collective possession of ball as well as individual players who contribute a lot,” he said.
“Then the goal came and it was one of the greatest of the World Cup. It was 100 percent the responsibility of the man who scored it,” added Tabarez.
“It was quite even after the break but we had a series of errors that we made and after the second goal we had to make some changes and take some risks. Then we came up against a goalkeeper who made two or three extraordinary saves and we weren’t able to get back in the game,” he said.
Tabarez said Uruguay’s second-round exit should be put in perspective.
“The world champions (Spain), England and Italy weren’t able to get out of the group stage. I am very proud of the men who make up the Uruguay national team for their mindset and approach – they gave their all.”