Suarez unwilling to share the limelight with Rooney
As so often in the past, Uruguay striker once again the star attraction
In the days before the game there was no disagreement: Luis Suarez wouldn’t last. How could he? Uruguay’s decision not to risk him off the bench against Costa Rica had seemingly revoked his certificate of fitness. We thought of Diego Costa’s Champions League disaster. We envisaged poor Luis limping early, leaning on his knees, looking at the bench, consoled by the arm of decent Steven Gerrard.
In the end Luis lasted long enough to turn water into wine, save Uruguay’s campaign and all but knock England out of the World Cup, just as he and all his country dreamed it would be. Menacing and sharp all night, and with a goal already to his name, he ran on to a long ball with five minutes to go, steadied himself, and blasted it past Joe Hart in England’s goal. An astonishing moment. A superhuman moment. A fresh legend seared into the Suarez lore.
He was replaced with cramp a couple of minutes later. Could anyone else score a goal like that on the last dregs of his energy? His teammates seemed to ask the same thing. At full-time they lifted him high on the air near the touchline, as though he were the World Cup itself.
When his first goal arrived it brought a deep roar, starting in the intense blue patches of supporters behind Fernando Muslera’s goal and fanning out around the Corinthians Arena. Suarez was more than happy to choose England’s best spell of the first half to make them feel saddest.
Drifting beautifully behind Phil Jagielka - much as Mario Balotelli had done to Gary Cahill in England's game against Italy - he gave his partner Edison Cavani a chance to pick him out, even if it needed the best of passes. Cavani delivered, chipping magnificently into the space behind Jagielka where Suarez lurked. The header was perfect and Uruguay roared.
The surprise was that the moment upset the pattern of the game. England had come into the match, and after a brilliantly threatening opening Suarez had drifted. Was he feeling the pace? There had been a sweet moment for him early on when he came together with Gerrard down England’s left and knocked his Liverpool team-mate off the ball. By then it was clear that however much stamina Suarez had, there was nothing wrong with his strength or cunning.
In a cold and blustery arena, the man who hadn’t played for so long was the quickest to settle, and England’s defenders looked frightened. An early one-two with Nicolas Lodeiro almost prised them open, and the knock-on implications in his return also quickly became apparent. Cavani returned to his best position and Uruguay took a far more cohesive shape, packing tightly in behind the two front men, directed by Egidio Arevalo in his bright yellow boots at the base of Uruguay’s midfield.