Luis Suarez is a player that the World Cup needs. His participation at full fitness in Brazil is not only crucial for the game, but could also be a key influence on the outcome of the daunting Group D in which his nation find themselves.
There are not many footballers around that possess his blend of pace, skill, and extraordinary eye for the spectacular. Yet the Liverpool forward has been in a critical race for fitness since undergoing knee surgery on May 22. Any true football fan should be desperate for Suarez to conquer his injury, with this the World Cup that will fall closest to the 27-year-old’s prime.
He is fresh from a stellar Premier League season, where his 31 goals in 33 games almost inspired Liverpool to a shock title. They did help him sweep the board at the end of season player of the year awards. Suarez also recorded 19 assists in all competitions, displaying an all-round game that could be of benefit to fellow Uruguay frontman Edinson Cavani.
National Coach Oscar Tabarez is the envy of world football with his mouth-watering strike partnership, and getting the most out of them will be crucial to La Celeste’s progress in Brazil. Suarez’s fitness could be of paramount consequence to which teams advance from Group D to the knockout stages.
It is a difficult group to call, but an on-song Suarez has the ability to single-handedly destroy Costa Rica, and inflict damage on England and Italy, who are weaker defensively than in previous tournaments.
Despite his talent, Suarez has never been far from controversy in his career, with unsavoury incidents occurring while playing in Holland for Ajax and a number of times at Liverpool. Indeed, his last game at a World Cup saw him sent off in the quarter-finals for a deliberate handball on the goal line against Ghana, handing the Africans a chance for victory from the penalty spot.
They duly missed, and Suarez, with the backing of football supporters in his homeland, would argue it was the right decision, as his team progressed to his own detriment in missing the semi-final.
No matter the morality, Suarez has an insatiable will to win, as all the best players do. He does however wish to alter the public perception of him, stating: “I want to change the bad boy image that has stuck for a bit because I don’t think I am at all how I have been portrayed.” Brazil would be a good place to improve his reputation in this respect.
Uruguay are a nation steeped in World Cup history, having hosted and won the first ever competition in 1930. In another South American country imbued in the spirit of the tournament, Brazil, Suarez will look to outshine the continent’s other star attractions, the host’s Neymar, and one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, Argentina’s Lionel Messi.
Winning the competition may be a tall order considering the overall ability of the Uruguay squad, but the World Cup is all about creating lasting memories, and Luis Suarez has the ability to create plenty of these all on his own.
Keep an eye out for…
Raheem Sterling – England: After a superb season at Liverpool that saw a greater maturity and composure to his game, England supporters will be hoping Sterling is given an opportunity to impress.
It is time for the Three Lions to trust more in their youngsters, and in Sterling they have a player who seems ready to continue his progress on the international scene.
His searing pace will be an asset against weary opponents in the heat, but the 19-year-old also possesses the ability to unlock defences with guile and a killer pass, and will be desperate for Hodgson to give him a chance.
Mario Balotelli – Italy: Never far from the headlines, Cesare Prandelli will be hoping that it is for the right reasons in Brazil for his dynamic forward.
Blessed with pace, power, great feet and an unerring finish, Balotelli ought to be looking for the World Cup to springboard his career. Euro 2012, and particularly the semi-final performance against a strong Germany side seemed to be a watershed moment for the 23-year-old, but he hasn’t kicked on for Milan, only helping his club to eighth in Serie A last season.
The World Cup could be the stage for an explosion of the positive variety.
Joel Campbell – Costa Rica: Already with 32 caps under his belt at the age of 21, and a Superleague success with Olympiakos last season, Campbell will be looking to enhance his reputation in Brazil.
Arsenal supporters in particular will be keeping a keen eye on how the forward performs against more celebrated opposition, following a couple of strong performances against Manchester United in last season’s Champions League while on loan in Greece.
The player believes he is ready to make an impact on the Premier League next season, and has the perfect opportunity to showcase his talents over the summer.