Luis Suarez would not have got much sleep last night as the songs of the Uruguay fans who invaded the team hotel drifted upwards, but at least he can look forward to his dream of facing England in Sao Paulo.
Although the Liverpool striker returned to full training on Thursday, less than three weeks after a knee operation, it is unlikely he will be risked today against Costa Rica, the weakest team in Group D, but his manager, Oscar Tabarez, is confident he will play some part against England next Thursday.
Uruguay’s leading daily El Pais, reprinted The Sun’s back page showing Suarez in balletic action on the training ground under the headline: “Oh No, Looks Like He’s Fit.”
However, with Edinson Cavani available and Diego Forlan having recovered from a stomach bug, Tabarez will be confident of overcoming Costa Rica without him. The songs of the 200 or so fans, who pushed into the foyer of the Marina Park on Fortaleza’s ostentatious waterfront, were all about how Uruguay would win the World Cup, as they did the last time it was staged in Brazil. They think they can crush Costa Rica and, frankly, they would be in trouble if they did not. The problem with whipping boys is they have to be whipped. If any of Group D’s big three, England, Italy or Uruguay, slip up against Costa Rica, it may kill their chances.
The Costa Rica defence looks threadbare. Having already lost left-back Bryan Oviedo of Everton, another full-back, Heiner Mora, who impressed in a 1-1 draw with Ireland, is now out with a fractured foot. Coupled with the loss of leading striker Alvaro Saborio, it means manager Jorge Pinto’s squad lacks depth – although they will be more used to the heat and humidity than Uruguay.
Uruguay: Group D team profile
Uruguay: Group D team profile
1/5 How they qualified
Uruguay might have triumphed 3-2 against Argentina in their final qualifying game in Montevideo, but it wasn't enough to lift them into the top four and automatic World Cup qualification, ultimately finishing fifth in the South American group. Their record was decidedly average having won only seven of their 16 games. They lost five in total including a critical dip in away form which saw four demoralising defeats on the road. However, La Celeste are never more dangerous than when they have their backs to wall, showing considerable strength of character to win the two crucial successive away fixtures against the teams directly below them in the table, Venezuela and Peru. With Luis Suarez topping the South America goalscoring charts on eleven goals, (one ahead of Lionel Messi) a 5-0 win over Jordan in Amman in the first leg of the World Cup qualification play-off ensured their ticket to Brazil.
2/5 Manager: Oscar Tabarez
After months of tactical indecision through a run which saw them play six qualifying games without a win, he shrewdly returned to basics. If he can harness Uruguay's fighting spirit whilst keeping their discipline, hopes of clinching a third World Cup - at the scene of their second victory on Brazilian soil in 1950 - will rise.
3/5 Star player: Luis Suarez
With a forward line consisting of the Liverpool forward, PSG’s £50 million man Edinson Cavani and an experienced Diego Forlan as back-up, Uruguay should score plenty. With 38 goals in 77 appearances for his country, Suarez is the the main threat, though he underwent keyhole surgery in May and faces a race to make the World Cup opener. His pace, technique and anticipation, allied to his strength and finishing ability, make him the complete centre-forward. With a catalogue of controversies hopefully behind him, keeping his emotions in check could be crucial to Uruguay’s chances.
4/5 Emerging talent: Abel Hernández
Abel Hernández, 23, has pace to burn, is good in the air and has a great technique. The striker has already netted seven goals in 11 games for Uruguay, including becoming only the fourth player in Confederations Cup history to hit four goals in one match. Hernandez has been at Palermo since 2009, and could be the man to replace Luis Suarez as the Liverpool forward races for fitness.
5/5 How they line up (4-3-3)
Muslera; Maxi Pereira, Lugano, Godin, Caceres; Rodriguez, Arevalo Rios, Lodeiro; Stuani, Cavani, Suarez
“Everyone is talking of the other teams in the group,” said the Costa Rica captain, Bryan Ruiz, whose miserable season at Fulham finished with him on loan at PSV Eindhoven. “They look at us like we are here to be beaten. That’s fine. It takes the pressure off.”
Uruguay’s keeper Fernando Muslera was woken at 2am by a swarm of ants on his bed. He had even less sleep than Suarez.