Luis Suarez aiming to put foot - rather than hand or mouth - on display at 2014 World Cup
Luis Suarez, one of the explosive talents and characters in football, is unrepentant about his World Cup infamy, but would love to make a more positive impact in Brazil.
His season at Liverpool has marked a stunning comeback in his campaign.
The 2010 World Cup quarter-final between Uruguay and Ghana was level 1-1 as the match entered the final minute of extra-time and the Africans would have taken the lead had Suarez not used his hand to keep out Dominic Adiyah’s header.
Suarez was sent off but Asamoah Gyan failed to convert the resulting penalty and, with the match ending 1-1, Uruguay claimed victory in a shootout. Suarez’s joyous celebrations angered many neutrals who felt justice had not been done.
Remarkably the Liverpool star’s reputation plunged lower in the next three years.
In December 2011, Suarez was banned for eight matches and fined £40,000 (Dh246,084) for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra during a match at Anfield.
Suarez maintained that the word he used – “negro” (black in Spanish) – did not have racist connotations in his country, but the damage to his reputation was done.
Then last April he was handed a 10-match suspension for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during another top-flight clash.
The barrage of criticism that greeted both incidents would have been enough to shatter the spirit of many players and it would have been no surprise to see Suarez quit England at the end of last season.
But the man nicknamed “El Pistolero” or the gun-slinger in Uruguay is made of sterner stuff.
Suarez was brought back into the fold by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers following the conclusion of the ban for the Ivanovic clash and he returned with a sustained burst of brilliance that saw him score 31 Premier League goals and claim the players’ Footballer of the Year title.
The 27-year-old was at his brilliant best again during Liverpool’s 6-3 victory over Cardiff in March, netting his third hat-trick of the season.
Suarez has rehabilitated his reputation in the eyes of many in England thanks to that scintillating run of form, which took Liverpool to the verge of claiming the Premier League title.
Now all he has to do is carry that form onto the game’s grandest stage in Brazil and maybe the rest of the world will forgive him for his own infamous moment.
“I stick with the feeling of having helped my team,” he said of the incident recently.
“I stopped a goal, and I believe that it is worse when you stop a goal and injure an opponent, seriously injure them, and get sent off for that.
“Stopping a goal with my hand I believe did nothing evil to anyone, it was just stopping a goal.”
While Suarez is defiant about his actions that night in Johannesburg, the Uruguayan cannot hide his desire to make World Cup headlines for the right reasons this time.
Arsenal’s England winger Theo Walcott and Monaco’s Colombian striker Radamel Falcao have seen their dreams of shining in Brazil shattered by long-term knee injuries and Suarez recently admitted he often worries about suffering the same fate.
“The truth is that I am scared of what happened to Falcao and Walcott. But you live in the present and you always give your best for the club - you can’t be thinking about that all the time,” Suarez said.
“It is a unique opportunity and we all want to be there, but I prefer to focus my mind on the English league. The moment to think about the national team will arrive later.”
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Published: May 20, 2014 04:00 AM