He will not be there in presence today, but he was certainly there in spirit yesterday. The tone set by Oscar Tabarez’s press conference was actually all too reminiscent of Luis Suarez at his most productive: defiant, decisive, abrasive and assertive.
The Uruguay manager also ensured that, in the build-up to what should be such an engaging last-16 South American derby, few were speaking of anything else. In fact, Tabarez resolved to only give a statement on Suarez’s suspension in his notional pre-game press conference, and refused to take questions on anything else.
The fury within the camp about it was all too clear. At the same time, the feeling persists that part of the manager’s motivation was to provide a somewhat intangible boost to his team.
Because, without Suarez, Uruguay are ultimately a much lesser team and almost certainly inferior to Colombia. While Jose Pekerman’s side possess such devastating attacking talent in the likes of James Rodriguez, Uruguay seem so much flatter and drearier when the Liverpool striker is not there.
World Cup fans pose with Luis Suarez advert
The effects of his absence were all too clear in the poor defeat to Costa Rica, and the recovery against England was almost solely down to the forward. It is an issue that is all the more pressing with Edinson Cavani on such underwhelming form.
As such, in order to even match Colombia, it is as if Uruguay require something else. This may well be it.
The players are clearly deriving a sense of rage out of the occasion; a sense of injustice. That could be a powerful raw motivation, and Tabarez is precisely the kind of intelligent manager to know how to properly use it.
It could make a difference.
If not, it’s difficult not to think that a difference in attacking class will tell.
Colombia await a first-World Cup quarter-final in their history. Uruguay can no longer wait for Suarez to save them.