Uruguay may have opened their campaign at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 with a defeat, but that does not necessarily mean there are no positives to be taken from the game. Indeed, up against reigning world and European champions Spain, La Celeste battled back from a shaky start to come close to snatching a draw.
So, despite the 2-1 reverse, it was by no means a catastrophe for the Copa America 2011 winners, particularly if you consider their coach Oscar Washington Tabarez said before the game that “if we played against them ten times, in normal conditions they’d win nine”.
It was perhaps this approach that led to the distinct lack of long faces in the Charrúa camp post-match, especially in the case of Luis Suarez – scorer of his side’s goal with a stunning direct free-kick.
“Even before the game we knew that Spain were a better side than us,” said the Liverpool striker, speaking exclusively to FIFA.com. “They use the ball really well and it’s really hard to get it off them. What’s more, they’ve got players in midfield with a huge amount of quality and they’re very effective up front. They were the favourites and at the end of the day the result wasn’t a surprise.”
It appears, therefore, that Uruguay had factored in defeat against La Roja, particularly given a run of form that has seen them slip to fifth in South American Zone qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. In fact, El Maestro Tabarez’s side had picked up just two point from their last six qualifiers prior to 11 June’s vital 1-0 win in Venezuela.
“We lost against the world’s best national team, but we know that the competition’s only just starting,” said Suarez, one of Uruguay’s key figures. “I think that we left a positive impression and we never let our heads drop, even when the game looked beyond us. The matches we’ve got coming up are different, and we’ve got to win them to progress. I think we showed a positive attitude and I’m feeling optimistic.”
Though the 6-1 win by upcoming Group B opponents Nigeria over Tahiti does reduce Uruguay's margin for error should they wish to reach the next round, the 26-year-old former Ajax hitman believes he and his countrymen often perform better when the chips are down. “Us Uruguayans are used to having it tough,” he said.
“For that reason, we’re not really worried,” he continued. “You just have to look at how we went into the last World Cup [in 2010, when Uruguay finished fourth after qualifying via the Intercontinental Play-offs] and also the result we just picked up in Venezuela. We’re going to get the best out of ourselves.”
Besides which, Suarez will be buoyed by having scored a truly world-class goal. Stepping up to take a free-kick from distance, which he himself had earned, the livewire front-man fired an arcing strike beyond Iker Casillas’ despairing dive and into the top-left corner of the net.
“It was a lovely goal because it was pretty far out and the angle was tricky, but unfortunately it came too late,” he lamented. “If we’d have scored a little earlier we might have been able to put them under a bit more pressure, but by the time that one went in there was almost no time left.”
Name in the history books
Suarez can also draw some consolation from the significance of said wonder-strike, his 33rd senior goal for his country: a tally which puts him level with Diego Forlan as La Celeste’s all-time leading marksman. “It’s an honour, a real honour,” he said, visibly moved. “To be on a par with Diego is a real honour for me, although I would have liked to have achieved this and won the game too.”
Suarez was also keen to mention one of the curious circumstances surrounding his team’s opening match here at Brazil 2013. This was the fact that, despite the fierce footballing rivalry between Brazil and Uruguay, the fans in Recife rallied behind Los Charrúas against Spain.
“I didn’t think it was strange, because even though we’re rivals there’s a good relationship between Uruguay and Brazil,” said Suarez. “A lot of Uruguayan players have gone over to Brazil, such as Forlan now or [Diego] Lugano and [Sebastian] Abreu before him. But over and above that, I think the fans came along to support the game of football. Both Spain and Uruguay are good teams and produced a nice match.”
Using the evidence of that opening encounter, Suarez was keen to sign off by sending out a confident message to Uruguayan supporters, many of whom also made the journey to Brazil to support La Celeste. “Uruguay can go toe-to-toe with anybody, we’re fully aware of that,” he concluded. “We might have had a setback against Spain, but there’s still a long way to go and we’re going to bounce back.”