The fitness question notwithstanding, in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani Uruguay probably have the most terrifying attacking pair in this tournament. But shining individual football stars always rise and fall. What remains consistently Uruguayan is an obduracy, a toughness to beat. At least that is what they will always tell you.
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“Our message is always the same,” said Cavani, who did not complete Uruguay’s training session yesterday. “Any time we play a match against England, or any team, our objective is to defend our image and the perception the world has about us. We are difficult to beat, we have strong character and strong personality and if you want to win against us you have to fight.”
It was a sentiment echoed by his coach, Oscar Tabarez. “Our aim is to be a difficult team to beat and this is still our objective. My main objective now is to win against England and try to continue in the World Cup.”
They find themselves in a curious position. It is talk that has been undermined by walk, almost literally. It was the speed of the Costa Rican attack in their opening match that undid an obdurate but at times static backline and midfield. And they are all too aware of the speed and dynamism of England’s new, youthful frontline.
Tabarez said: “England played very well against Italy. We have watched and analysed that game. I can say the England team is very good attacking, very good up front with wonderful players, four players always up front, very fast, more than able to score and they were very direct and pragmatic. They are able to organise wonderful plays very fast. Gerrard is a wonderful player, organising play from anywhere and this is important for England. It allows them to attack from midfield. We could see that against Italy.
“They played well but it doesn’t mean they will play the same against Uruguay. We don’t know if Uruguay will be better than Italy. We know we have to fight hard but if we win we will be really strong and very well prepared for the next game.”
Diego Lugano, the 33- year-old captain and central defender who spent last year at West Bromwich Albion is out with a knee injury. But it is a different suspect knee that is the fulcrum of Uruguay’s hopes. Luis Suarez has been declared fit, but with caveats. “If he plays we must consider the possibility that he’s not as well as he was during the Premier League,” Tabarez added. “Even when not 100 per cent, he is someone who can give a lot to his team. That’s what we’re considering right now.”
During training on the pitch at Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians, Suarez did a little languid keepy-uppy on the outside of his foot, his suspect knee bent outward at an acute angle, an action that would be impossible with a still injured lateral meniscus.
But it his match-readyness that is in question, a matter on which no visible light was shed yesterday.
The Uruguayan camp has been invaded by Brazilian safari ants since that shock opening loss. The more sentient among them might have observed much soul-searching going on.
“We have thought about why we lost since the game against Costa Rica,” said Cavani. “It was difficult to accept not because we thought they were easy, we respected them, but we were playing well and we thought we would start the competition on right foot. Losing is never nice.
“We know we lost because we made mistakes. We have seen it, analysed it and we are convinced it was our fault.”
With both England and Uruguay having lost their opening matches, the drama, for Tabarez, is deliciously simple: “Two teams will meet. Both of us need to win. One will stay in and the other has very little chance to continue. It doesn’t mean we will make it but we know our team always fights until the end.”
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