England Right Not To Fear Half-Fit Suarez

Luis Suarez says he's 100% ready but he's clearly nowhere near match-fit. Matthew Stanger is in Brazil and sees little to fear in Uruguay, with or without Suarez...

Last Updated: 17/06/14 at 14:39 Post Comment

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Luis Suarez is a master of deception. Whether it is evading Premier League defenders by sleight of hand, practising the dark arts to con referees, or perhaps even fibbing about his fitness, the striker is no stranger to a ruse.

Although Suarez has insisted that he has made a full recovery from a knee injury to face England, the context contradicts his assertion. "I have been training for a few days with the team and I am 100% ready," said the 27-year-old. But it is the next part of the quote that is the most telling: "I now only need time on the pitch and to play the game."

Any injury that requires an operation is a serious ordeal for a footballer, even those as robust as the Liverpool forward. "Injuries are always ugly and more so at this time," said Edinson Cavani of his teammate's race to be fit, while Diego Godin has confessed that he "felt ill" at Suarez's absence. The defender will have been even more nauseous when Uruguay were embarrassed by Costa Rica, with Suarez held back during the 3-1 defeat as the situation became desperate. The striker hasn't kicked a ball in anger for over five weeks, is he really "100% ready"?

Mentally, there is no doubt that Suarez will be prepared for Thursday's do-or-die clash in Sao Paulo. He isn't a player to crumble under pressure, despite failing to score in six matches against the rest of the top four in the Premier League this season and notching only twice in 12 games for his country against South American rivals Brazil, Argentina and Colombia. However, England can expect that he won't be as quick or as sharp as he was throughout Liverpool's brilliant campaign and, if he feels the slightest pain in his knee, it will be an enormous distraction.

Even with Suarez included, Uruguay are not a team to fear, as their qualifying struggles suggest. "There is not one player that is going to be the saviour," said Suarez after confirming his return, a sentiment shared by Roy Hodgson. "Suarez is my player of the year. He's an exceptional player, with exceptional ability," said the England manager in May. "But he's not alone. Maybe he's less effective with Uruguay than for Liverpool. I think it would be a big mistake to get hung up on any individual player no matter how much you respect their ability."

Hodgson's comments encourage the feeling that England are here to care about their own strengths first and the quality of the opposition second. For a manager and a team who have been accused of being too negative and cautious in the past, it makes for a refreshing change. The odds to qualify from Group D have swung from Uruguay's favour to England's following the first round of results, and that confidence has been reflected in the mood of the camp. "I'm so excited for the next game," said Daniel Sturridge after the defeat to Italy. "We know we can do a job on them (Uruguay) if we play like we did tonight."

England will prepare for Suarez, a player with which they are already hugely familiar, but it seems they will avoid becoming preoccupied. If they show the same fearlessness they did against Italy, then Sturridge's prediction should ring true. It wasn't the start that Hodgson and his players had hoped for but England know they possess the quality to bounce back against Uruguay, even with the added threat of Suarez.

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