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Suarez Sets Sights on England

Having just completed the domestic season of his career, the indefatigable Luis Suarez is beginning to zero-in on Uruguay's World Cup opponents, including an England team that will look very familiar to him.

Don't make him angry, Mr. wouldn't like him when he's angry.
Don't make him angry, Mr. wouldn't like him when he's angry.
David Ramos

Roy Hodgson, that most eminent of tacticians, will currently be in a fretful state of restiveness. As he quietly plots the vexatious conundrum of exactly what personnel he will employ in his rigid 4-4-2, the Lion of Halmstads will doubtless be perturbed by a gnawing disquietude. What, exactly, is he to do about the the belligerently brilliant Uruguayan irritant to his dreams of attaining World Cup mediocrity?

Hodgson, 1984 Division 2 North winner with the mighty Orebro, is not afraid to dream big, and in order to reach the apogee of his stellar career, glorious penalty shoot-out elimination in the quarter finals, his charges must first find a way to do something the finest defenders in the Premier League could not -- they must stifle the attacking panache of Luis Suarez. It's a racing certainty that the England manager is engaged in some vigorous facial massage as he wrestles with this particular quandary.

For his part, Suarez is utterly focused on the job of representing his country. In a way that reflects his club skipper, Steven Gerrard, the striker retains a particularly raw passion when he dons the jersey of his native land. He will be pride incarnate as he represents La Celeste and that should terrify not only Hodgson's England but also the squads of Costa Rica and Italy. When pressed on the meeting with the English Suarez was respectful but defiant. There may be as many as five of his club-mates wearing the three lions when the two countries meet but it is clear the masterful virtuoso will not fear anything England offer in opposition and, in fact, his inside knowledge of the Premier League may be a real boon.

"They have very good players that are in form and that are part of the big teams," he avers. "Most of the players come from the big names of the Premier League and that means a lot. But we also know that they have some troubles and we know we can hurt them."

The only source of consolation for Hodgson et al is that the noted amateur goalkeeper seems to be retaining his greatest disgruntlement for the tournament hosts, having suffered what he felt was a lack of justice at the hands of the Brazilians. Twice winners of the famous old trophy in 1930 and again, in Brazil, twenty years later, the Uruguayans are confident of a good run and their talisman believes they have a certain je ne sais quoi that separates them.

"It is clear that Uruguay knows the meaning of a World Cup in Brazil," Suarez insists. "It is more important because of what happened in the past but now we are living in the present. Brazil eliminated us in the Confederations Cup last year and it was not fair because I think we played better. But that’s football and sometimes despite playing a great game, you can’t always win.

"We realise that the World Cup in Brazil motivates us a lot because all the things that we have experienced in the past.We are a small country but the percentage of players we have is unbelievable. There’s a strong desire to achieve and to win something. That’s what we have as Uruguayans, that desire."

Many virtual square yards of cyber space have been devoted to the debate as to where exactly Luis Suarez ranks in the standings of the game's current greats. So otherworldly have been the persistent performance levels of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, over a number of seasons, that the duo have isolated themselves on another plane. Only this season has any other footballer had the temerity to step into that dimension. Previously, the likes of Xavi Garcia and Andres Iniesta have been the third member of a top three but, honestly, few could see past the stunning talent of the Argetinian and the Portuguese.

In the admittedly addled mind of this scribbler, if Suarez can reproduce this season's prodigious form across reasonably successful Champions League and Premier League campaigns in the season to come, he will be a realistic candidate for the Ballon d'Or. Lest we forget, the Uruguayan's displays were so astonishing this year that he managed to overcome dreadful reputational issues amongst the sanctimonious types in the British media to land not only the PFA player of the year award but also, more notably, the Football Writers' equivalent. When pressed on which of the two great icons of the modern game he feels is the best, Liverpool's number seven is admirably diplomatic, citing the strengths of each without being in any way fawning and throwing a third name into the mix.

"I can’t say who’s the better one of them. Messi has beautiful technique, scores a lot, is an excellent dribbler also because he’s a little guy. Ronaldo, on the other hand, looks like a machine. It all looks so perfect with him. He combines power with intelligence and always strikes the ball perfect. They’re both on the same level. But I also admire Andres Iniesta a lot. He’s the kind of player that always thinks faster then every other player and sends incredible passes. He does the things you don’t expect. He sees possibilities no one else sees. But it’s not just his way of playing, it’s also his way of living. He’s always calm."

It is noteworthy that Luis Suarez should value "calm" assessment of the game. The most distinguishable difference in the striker's performances over the season just ended, the finest of his career to date, was the infinitely more pacific demeanour he displayed on the pitch. There was no loss to his edge, only a benefit to his concentration, and that focus is a credit to the player's desire to evolve. At only 27, the same age Kenny Dalglish was when he signed for the Anfield men, he has time to do just that. Fans of Liverpool and Uruguay will be a touch giddy at the prospect.

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