Speaking to FIFA.com just days before Monterrey’s FIFA Club World Cup quarter-final against Kashiwa Reysol, Humberto Suazo expressed his confidence at finally replicating the form he has long showed in Latin America in a global competition.
The last opportunity he had to do that came a year and a half ago at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, a tournament Suazo should have gone into with high hopes. After all, El Chupete had top-scored in the South American qualifying competition, ahead of luminaries such as Luis Fabiano, Lionel Messi and Diego Forlan, and then spent six months on loan with Real Zaragoza following a successful season with Monterrey.
As the world finals approached, however, injury would rear its ugly head, with the shaven-headed sharpshooter damaging ligaments in his shoulder and then pulling up with muscular problems just a fortnight before the big kick-off.
In the event Suazo was on the field for just 136 minutes of Chile’s four games and failed to score, an outcome to which the prolific striker is far from accustomed.
“I can honestly say, though, that when I look back I don’t feel a sense of frustration. Not one little bit,” said the 30-year-old Suazo, reflecting on Chile’s South African campaign, which ended with a 3-0 defeat to Brazil in the Round of 16. “I was virtually ruled out of the World Cup but thanks to Marcelo Bielsa (Chile’s then coach) and the coaching staff, who believed in me, I was able to fulfil my dream and take part in a wonderful experience.”
It is doubtful whether Suazo will be able to look back on the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011 with as much satisfaction, however, this despite getting on the scoresheet in Sunday’s meeting with the Japanese champions and putting in a fine all-round performance.
The striker was in despondent mood as he emerged to face the media following Los Rayados’ penalty-shootout defeat to Kashiwa, which came after extra time had failed to separate the two teams.
“I feel very sad,” said the disconsolate Chilean, who also converted a penalty for his side in the fateful shoot-out. “It’s been a while since we played an official match and I think we ended up paying for that.”
Though their heroes had been out of action since the end of the regular league season in Mexico, Monterrey fans still had high hopes of success in Japan, chiefly because of Suazo’s impressive scoring record, which has seen him amass 73 goals in 120 league games for Los Rayados. The Chile international also struck the goal that gave Monterrey a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake in the final of the CONCACAF Champions League, a triumph that earned them their FIFA Club World Cup place.
The appreciation they feel for their goalscoring talisman is one he reciprocates, as he explained in an interview with FIFA.com in the build-up to the Sunday’s game: “I love being here at this club. They opened the doors to the world for me and I’ll always be grateful to them.”
That passion for his club colours explains Suazo’s sense of dejection at Monterrey’s exit, the latest in a long line of FIFA Club World Cup failures for Mexican teams. Only once has one of the country’s representatives managed a top-three finish in the competition, that team being Necaxa in the inaugural tournament in 2000.
“It’s hard to explain,” said the quietly spoken Suazo, his voice barely audible as he struggled to collect his thoughts in the wake of defeat. “It’s a huge disappointment, but that’s football for you.”