Edinson Cavani admits Uruguay are “discouraged” by Luis Suarez’s injury problems but remain hopeful the Liverpool striker will still play some part in the World Cup.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward will shoulder the side’s attacking responsibility should Suarez fail to recover in time from his knee operation, but would be happier to share the spotlight with the Premier League’s top-scorer.
The 27-year-old is a national hero in Uruguay and his fight for fitness is being treated in Montevideo with all the frenzy that surrounded David Beckham’s metatarsal break for England in 2002.
Uruguay’s opening match against Costa Rica on June 15 is an unrealistic target for Suarez even if he makes the squad, but the second group match against an England side led by Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard is an obvious target.
Cavani said: “We’re all a bit discouraged by what happened. Injuries are always ugly and more so at this time. I think we have to leave him alone now so he can have a good recovery with no anxiety on him. We wish he can join us as soon as possible.”
Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin, who linked up with La Celeste after scoring for his side in a losing cause in the Champions League final, was equally concerned about Suarez.
“When I heard (about Suarez) I said ‘no, not now, please’,” said Godin. “The truth is that I felt ill, it is something that nobody expected. He is our figurehead, our star.
“Now what remains is for us to support him. I’ve talked to him and he is very optimistic.”
The images of Suarez being carted around in a wheelchair have not fooled Jordan Henderson, who fully expects to be lining-up against his Liverpool team-mate when England take on Uruguay at the World Cup.
After sweeping up at the end-of-season awards for his wonderful displays with the Reds, the 27-year-old was predicted to light-up this summer’s tournament in Brazil.
“Everybody is obviously disappointed for Luis, the people that know him – maybe not us because he is a big player for Uruguay, ” the midfielder said with a smile. “I gave him a text to see if he is doing all right and wished him good luck with whatever he has got to have done.”
As the World Cup draws ever closer, the teams are putting their squads through their final paces with a series of friendlies before the competition gets underway on June 12.
This week saw the French, Belgian, American, Japanese and Australian sides all in action with each country left with their own dilemmas just 15 days away from kick-off in Brazil.
France 4– 0 Norway
Olivier Giroud scored twice as France stepped up their World Cup preparations on Tuesday with a 4-0 victory over Norway at the Stade de France in the first of three pre-tournament friendlies.
Paul Pogba netted a first-half opener in Paris, while Giroud enhanced his reputation ahead of next month's finals in Brazil through a second-half brace that came either side of Loic Remy's first international goal since 2011.
Despite the absence of some key regulars, Didier Deschamps fielded a strong side featuring seven probable starters for Les Bleus' World Cup opener against Honduras on June 15.
They kick off their World Cup campaign against Honduras in Porto Alegre before facing Switzerland and Ecuador in Group E.
USA 2–0 Azerbaijan
Second-half goals from Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson lifted the United States to a 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan on Tuesday.
Playing their first match since manager Jurgen Klinsmann announced his 23-man squad for the World Cup finals – from which all-time leading US scorer Landon Donovan was a notable absentee – the United States still have a few things to sort out before heading to Brazil.
While Donovan's omission was big news, a big question remaining for the United States is who will be the starting central defence pairing when they take on Ghana in their World Cup opener on June 16.
Japan 1–0 Cyprus
Defender Atsuto Uchida spared Japan's blushes with a 43rd-minute winner as the Asian champions beat Cyprus 1-0 in their final home World Cup warm-up on Tuesday.
Japan, who looked heavy-legged after a punishing training camp last week, face Ivory Coast in their opening game at the World Cup in Brazil on June 14.
Right-back Uchida broke the deadlock in Saitama when he stabbed home the loose ball after Shinji Kagawa's close-range effort had been blocked, registering only his second goal in 66 internationals.
Australia 1–1 South Africa
Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said his team are heading in the right direction but still have work to do ahead of the World Cup after an uninspiring 1-1 draw against South Africa.
While Australia did not play injured first-choice squad members Mile Jedinak, Mark Bresciano and Matthew Spiranovic on Monday, there was little to enthuse about before they depart for Brazil today.
The inexperienced Australians, the lowest ranked team in the World Cup at 59, face a daunting task in Brazil against title holders Spain, the Netherlands and Chile in Group B.
Belgium 5–1 Luxembourg
Romelu Lukaku scored a hat-trick as World Cup dark horses Belgium eased to a 5-1 win over minnows Luxembourg in the first of three pre-finals friendlies they will play before travelling to Brazil.
Lukaku, who had an excellent season on loan with Everton from Chelsea scoring 15 goals in the Premier League, was joined on the scoresheet by Tottenham Hotspur's Nacer Chadli and VfL Wolfsburg's former Chelsea attacking midfielder Kevin de Bruyne.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup is just weeks away and with that in mind, Sport360° looks back at some of the biggest shocks in the tournament's history.
United States 1 England 0 (1950)
England arrived at their first World Cup finals, hailed as potential winners having lost just four times in 30 matches. Faced with a team of part-timers, England selectors rested star player Stanley Matthews. It proved to be a fatal error as with substitutes not yet permitted Matthews sat helplessly on the sidelines as a goal by Haiti-born Joe Gaetjens, who earned his keep as a dishwasher in a restaurant, earned the Americans a 1-0 win. Neither side made it through to the next round. The match was immortalised in a book and film called the 'Miracle Game'.
Uruguay 2 Brazil 1 (1950)
The game that came to be known as the 'Maracanazo'. Hosts Brazil were drawing 1-1 and under the old format were just 10 minutes from winning their first World Cup in the Maracana. However, their hopes and that of a nation were dashed as Alcides Ghiggia lashed in a shot to make it 2-1. Despite there being 200,000 fans packed into the stadium Ghiggia, who is now 87 and the only member of the two teams still alive, told AFP the crowd were reduced to a 'great stunning silence'. Brazil got over the trauma and have won the trophy five times since while that was the second and last of Uruguay's wins.
North Korea 1 Italy 0 (1966)
Pak Do-Ik entered World Cup folklore by striking the only goal of the game to secure the hermit Stalinist state a remarkable 1-0 victory over Italy in a group match in the unglamorous setting of Middlesbrough in north-eastern England. It did not presage a golden era in football for North Korea as they had to wait till 2010 for their next appearance at the finals. However, for Pak it opened up a whole new world. "I learnt that playing football can improve diplomatic relations and promote peace," he said when he made an emotional return to Middlesbrough in 2002. North Korea went on to lose 5-3 to Portugal in the quarter-finals but their feat was immortalised in a BBC documentary called 'The Game of their Lives'.
East Germany 1 West Germany 0 (1974)
One of the most politically charged matches in World Cup history, with the Cold War raging and intense rivalry between the two states reaching a peak as West Germany hosted the tournament. The two — divided since World War II — fought constantly for supremacy in the sporting arena but this was the most high profile meeting. West Germany were packed with household names but the East Germans arrived boosted by Magdeburg's Cup Winners Cup victory. Striker Jurgen Sparwasser scored the only goal of the game and provoked wild celebrations back in the communist state. West Germany, though, were to have the last laugh as they went on to win the trophy while East Germany bowed out in the next round.
Algeria 2 West Germany 1 (1982)
The North Africans were appearing in their first World Cup finals and were given little chance against the reigning European champions in the clash in Spain. The German players thought it was done and dusted. "One player even said that he would play against us with a cigar in his mouth," Algeria's full-back Chaabane Merzekane told The Guardian later. The over confidence of the Germans came back to haunt them as the Algerians prevailed 2-1 with Rabah Madjer opening the scoring nine minutes into the second-half. The Germans pulled level through Karl-Heinz Rummenigge only for a stunning move by the Algerians to culminate in the decisive goal by Lakhdar Belloumi. German coach Jupp Derwall had said he would go home if they were beaten by their opponents but he stayed and it all came down to the final group game against Austria. If Germany won they progressed, but if it was a draw the Algerians would as they had beaten Chile the day before. The Germans won 1-0 with an early goal which then saw the rest of the match played as if it was a friendly, neither side taking chances as they knew both would qualify at Algeria's expense. Not surprisingly it became known as the 'Disgrace of Gijon' and forced a change in that final group games would from then on be played at the same time. West Germany went on to lose 3-1 in the final to Italy.
Northern Ireland 1 Spain 0 (1982)
Unfancied Northern Ireland crashed Spain's World Cup fiesta, beating the hosts 1-0 through a Gerry Armstrong goal early in the second-half. Spain could not even take advantage of their opponents being reduced to 10 men for the final half hour as defender Mal Donaghy was sent off. Northern Ireland went through to the quarter-finals but their adventure ended there while ironically Armstrong earned a move to Spanish side Real Mallorca. Armstrong told the BBC in 2008 that the win that night had given hope to the 'minnows' of world football. "I think it's a great inspiration for smaller nations who have a bond like we had and can also achieve success if they're organised."
Cameroon 1 Argentina 0 (1990)
Argentina as defending champions opened the 1990 tournament in Italy against a Cameroon side that had few recognised stars. However, Francois Omam-Biyik's headed goal, helped by an awful goalkeeping error by Nery Pumpido, gave them an astonishing 1-0 win in a game that their raw tackling saw them reduced to nine men. "We hate it when European reporters ask us if we eat monkeys and have a witch doctor. We are real football players and we proved this tonight," said Biyik. Cameroon exited the tournament in the quarter-finals, heads held high and one of the few bright spots of the finals. The Argentines, with Diego Maradona their sole creative outlet, somehow made it to the final but left unloved through a mix of their diving and brutal attitude on the pitch.
South Korea 0 Spain 0 – S. Korea won 5-3 on penalties (2002)
South Korea, who co-hosted the finals with Japan, had already beaten Italy in the Last 16, in controversial fashion, and faced a Spanish side packed with talent, but who had needed penalties to beat the Republic of Ireland to reach the last eight. This too went to penalties as the Koreans followed Dutch coach Guus Hiddink's instructions to the letter, harrying the skilful Spaniards all over the pitch. The European side's tempers frayed as two seemingly good goals were ruled out by the Egyptian referee. The Koreans kept their nerve in the penalty shootout and prevailed 5-3 to become the first Asian side to reach the semi-finals. Their current coach Hong Myung-Bo scored the winner. South Korea lost to Germany in the semi-final.
Senegal 1 France 0 (2002)
In a repeat of 1990, another talented but largely unknown African team were up against the defending world champions who possessed a global superstar in Zinedine Zidane. The Senegalese, coached by Frenchman Bruno Metsu, rattled their opponents from the start and it was no surprise when midfielder Pape Bouba Diop popped up to score in the 30th minute. France and especially their coach Roger Lemerre seemed incapable of reacting and lost 1-0. France became the first defending champions to exit at the group stage, while Senegal got to the last eight and on the back of it players like Diop earned big money moves to top European clubs.