Luis Suarez injury: Liverpool's Uruguay striker faces battle to be fit for England World Cup clash after emergency knee surgery

England take on Suarez's Uruguay in Sao Paolo on 19 June
  • @ianherbs

The Uruguay Football Association today issued a deeply pessimistic statement on Luis Suarez’s prospects of facing England in their group match at the World Cup next month.

The AUF has declared only that “his participation at the World Cup has not been ruled out” Suarez underwent after knee surgery on an injury sustained in the last game of Liverpool’s season.

The kick, which leaves Suarez a doubt to start against Roy Hodgson’s team in Brazil 28 days from now was almost certainly delivered by Newcastle United’s Paul Dummett, who was sent off after catching Suarez’s left knee with his trailing leg in a clumsy challenge three minutes from time at Anfield on 11 May.

Dummett, whose red card was later rescinded, tonight found himself the victim of death threats on social media from Uruguay fans after the AUF effectively blamed Newcastle for Suarez’s operation. The 22-year-old defender, who was called up by Wales today for a friendly against the Netherlands on  4 June, referred the threats to the football authorities

Though Suarez’s mother suggested her son would be back after two to three weeks following keyhole arthroscopy surgery on his right knee at a private hospital in the Uruguayan capital Montevideo today, the AUF provided no such assurances. It said Suarez had felt “an intense pain in his left knee” while warming up during the first training session with Oscar Tabarez’s squad on Wednesday morning. The AUF linked this to the blow on the same knee against Newcastle.  Suarez sustained at least one other kick during that match.

The pain had subsided during the 11-day period of rest before Suarez joined the Uruguay squad, but it flared up again immediately he resumed football work.

A three-week recovery period would mean Suarez returning eight days before England face Uruguay on 19 June, and the immediate dismay felt in the South American country today reflected the national team’s heavy dependence on the twin strike force of Suarez and Edinson Cavani.


The Uruguayans are taking heart from the fact that Suarez  – who admitted last season that his desire to play means he starts Liverpool games while less than fully fit – rapidly reaches full potential when he has been out of action.

After a 10-game suspension meant he missed the first six matches of last season, Suarez scored six times in five games. He started all but one of the season’s remaining matches, in all competitions.

However, the problem on this occasion is that Suarez will be unable to do anything other than physiotherapy work in the next few weeks.

Leading knee surgeon Tim Spalding said that damage to the external meniscus on the outside of the knee, which Suarez has sustained, is potentially far more serious than a need to repair the internal meniscus. Quick returns to fitness are more typical when the internal meniscus has been damaged.

“Surgery only 20 days before the World Cup: that’s serious,” Spalding said. “I imagine the decision-making was quite hard. They will have wondered, ‘Could we get him back to 80 to 90 per cent, without risking surgery? Is that enough?’”

The indirect beneficiaries of Suarez lacking his full firepower in Brazil include Liverpool, who could find the Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, making a substantial play for him in July. Perez loves to buy the next big thing and a more subdued Suarez may be less appealing to him.

But Hodgson is the one who will be doing metaphorical backflips. There can be no denying the profound consequences of a less-than-fit Suarez, because Uruguay’s entire team is still set up around him and Cavani. Tabarez operates an obdurate 4-4-2 system, grinding through games with no sophistication and just waiting for the opportunity to get one of the pair free in space. “As a team we want to be as we were in South Africa [in the 2010 World Cup] – difficult to play against,” Tabarez said recently. ”I don’t aspire to anything else.”

luis-suarez-boot.jpgThe South American football specialist Tim Vickery observes in the latest edition of World Soccer that Tabarez’s squad are – strikers aside – arguably past their best. Semi-finalists last time and tipped to go far again, they need an early win against Costa Rica – the fixture Suarez really will struggle to play in – allowing them to approach England and Italy with a defensive outlook and using Suarez and Cavani on the counter-attack.

An anguished Uruguay – where the AUF was coming under attack from journalists for its initial “wall of silence” over the Suarez operation – is holding its breath.