Colombia vs Uruguay World Cup 2014: Edinson Cavani should have provided the cutting edge that Luis Suarez gave Uruguay but he was toothless

Paris Saint-Germain hitman was ineffective as Uruguay followed Suarez home

Rio de Janeiro

 

There were two players thrust into talismanic responsibilities in the Maracana but while Edinson Cavani laboured in the shadow of Luis Suarez, James Rodriguez dazzled as Colombia’s main man.

In fairness, he has had more practice. Colombia lost their principal striker, Radamel Falcao, to a cruciate knee ligament injury in January and since then Rodriguez has gradually assumed centre stage, carrying the hopes of an expectant nation revelling in their first World Cup since 1998.

His impact on this World Cup has been profound. The 22-year-old has scored in every game so far but none with more class and ingenuity than his 28th-minute volley which turned Colombia’s domination of possession from sterile to sublime.

Before and after that wondrous moment, Cavani faltered under the weight of expectation. Suarez may be banned from any football-related activity but there was plenty of Suarez-related activity here before kick-off.

Liverpool may be losing patience with the striker but in a population of 3.4 million people, Suarez is still king. Uruguayan supporters filtered into this magnificent stadium adorned in Suarez masks with a few wearing muzzles as if somehow his idiotic act of biting Giorgio Chiellini warrants glorification.

They sang his name with gusto at kick-off. Suarez’s ludicrous denial yesterday further enhanced the ridiculous idea propounded by the Uruguayans that he is somehow a victim – Cavani used Twitter to publish a picture taken in the dressing room with several players huddled around Suarez’s shirt, hung up in another show of solidarity with the message “Lucho is with us”.

Cavani had big shoes to fill. Suarez had almost single-handedly picked Uruguay up from the canvas after the hammer blow of losing to Costa Rica in their opening Group D match. After two displays brimming with defiance and spirit, they rather acquiesced to defeat here against a Colombia side that will ask stern questions of Brazil in Friday’s quarter-final.

Uruguay have now lost four of the five World Cup finals and qualification games Suarez has been unavailable for since 2010. Although he scored a penalty in that loss to Costa Rica and provided a deft assist for Suarez’s first goal against England, it must rank as a disappointment that Cavani could not assume centre stage with the authority expected from a £55 million striker.

It is true that among Cavani’s strengths is his defensive diligence and that application was in evidence again here. But Uruguay needed more than a workhorse having fielded eight defensive-minded players in an effort to counter Colombia’s effervescence.

Equally, he was starved of service as Cristian Rodriguez was unable to match his Colombian namesake for creativity.

Cavani stabbed a weak shot at goal early on before lifting a free-kick over. He never threatened to be anything more than peripheral. Diego Forlan, charged with defying his 35 years as Suarez’s replacement, failed in his task.

His 53rd-minute withdrawal was inevitable from the moment Rodriguez became this World Cup’s top scorer with a simple close-range finish to double Colombia’s lead. Christian Stuani fared little better.

Uruguay will no doubt rage at the injustice of losing Suarez to what they believe is unfair persecution by Fifa but that does not excuse the fact they were outthought and outfought by a team thriving under coach Jose Pekerman. (To that end, perhaps it was best England avoided this last 16 clash after all.)

Any side would be weaker without Suarez but in his absence Cavani should be capable of filling the void and he fell short. Then again, perhaps we should have known Uruguay would be toothless in attack.

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