field on Thursday. And it was he, the one in Uruguay’s colours, who reiterated within 90 minutes just why the Merseyside team were so strong in the first place.
Much was printed about Suarez’s availability for the World Cup following his knee-surgery. He promised that he was ready for the campaign opener against Costa Rica as well. But in his eventual absence, Uruguay lost 3-1 to what was considered the weakest side in the group of death. So few believed his claims of being ‘a 100 per cent fit’ for England. Coach Tabarez fielded his star nevertheless. And Suarez gave a 101 per cent.
The Gerrard ‘assist’
Right from the first whistle, he showed his marker Gerrard that he was way too nifty for him. Gerrard, like many of his team-mates soon would, resorted to force and ugly shirt-tugging tackles. But that was hardly going to be a hindrance, not when Suarez was in such terrorizing mood.
He found form early, dodging past Leighton Baines on his left and darting a cross to Cristian Rodriguez on the opposite wing. Uruguay’s number seven shook off defender Phil Jagielka with ease just at the edge of the box and chopped down his crazy left foot towards goal. The ball swung to goalkeeper Joe Hart’s right and then swerved left, missing the top-left by millimetres. Hart, stumped in the centre, must’ve for second believed that this was the real CR7.
Although Uruguay completely dominated proceedings, making a mockery of England’s sluggish defence with some fascinating runs, it was England who came closest to taking the lead at the end of the first half. Just to the right of Uruguay goalie Fernando Muslera, Danny Welbeck was brought down by the outstanding Martin Caceres and Gerrard stood over the free-kick.
He curled it around one wall and perfectly found another, the towering presence of a flying Rooney. The number ten got big over the Brazuca a good distance away from Muslera and thrust in a hell of a header. The impact nearly deformed the edge of the crossbar, swaying out of control in the freezing Sao Paulo air. Rooney fell and rolled into the net but, importantly, the ball didn’t.
Minutes after Rooney missed his chance, Suarez made him pay for it. Making a fabulous trot around a thicket of legs and deep into the ‘keeper’s territory, the Uruguay number nine met Edinson Cavani’s chip from the left with his forehead, nodding it diagonally past a diving Hart. He collapsed on the wet floor and wept with happiness, an act that would repeat itself minutes after Rooney gave everyone a false sense of wretched hope.