All eyes on Suarez

Luis Suarez was forced to undergo a knee operationafter this foul by Newcastle United’s Paul Dummett during Liverpool’s last EPL match of the 2013-14 season.-AP

On May 31, there must have been a collective sigh of relief across Uruguay, when the country’s final squad of 23 for the World Cup was announced. Luis Suarez, despite injury concerns, made it to the squad. The Liverpool striker’s availability not just eased the anxiety of the Uruguayans, but also that of many football fans across the world.

But, it is still not sure if Suarez would recover completely, from the surgery on his left knee, before Uruguay’s first match against Costa Rica on June 14. Uruguay, however, would want him to take the field against Italy and England in Group ‘D’; where letter ‘D’ can easily stand for death.

Uruguay needs Suarez. He is irreplaceable much like Sachin Tendulkar was for the Indian cricket team. Uruguay’s chances of progress indeed depend on him, who is currently the best centre forward in the world. Without the talisman, Uruguay — despite the tactical acumen of coach Oscar Tabarez — will struggle. Uruguay though is not a one-man army.

Suarez’s partner upfront is Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain), and together the duo form possibly the deadliest strike force in international football today. And there are more attacking options in Christian Stuani (RCD Espanyol) and the ageing Diego Forlan (Cerezo Osaka), the winner of the Golden Ball at the last World Cup in South Africa, where Uruguay surprised everyone by reaching the last four.

The strikers could expect ample assistance from the midfield through Cristian Rodriguez (Atletico Madrid), Nicolas Lodeiro (Corinthians), Gaston Ramirez (Southampton) and Walter Gargano (Parma). The defence will be led by the redoubtable Diego Lugano (West Bromwich Albion) with able support from Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Egidio Arevalo-Rios (Tigers UANL) and Sebastian Coates (Liverpool). The defenders, however, let in as many as 25 goals in 16 qualification matches.

It was hardly a smooth ride to Brazil for Uruguay. It started disastrously in the South American leg, with just two points from its first six matches, and had to get in through the inter-continental play-offs. In the earlier World Cup in Brazil in 1950, Uruguay, in an unforgettable final match, downed the host 2-1 to win its second World Cup. Effective on the counter and with a fit Suarez, the reigning Copa America champion could pose a serious challenge to the other title contenders.