Seconds after the final whistle sounded, a group of rain-drenched players celebrate joyously in front of their supporters at the Port Elizabeth Stadium. The men in question are Uruguayan and their unrestrained joy is because they have seen off an obdurate Korea Republic side to reach the quarter-finals of a FIFA World Cup™ for the first time in 40 years. All eyes, of course, are on Luis Suarez, the author of both his side's goals.
An interesting, if little-mentioned, statistic about Suarez is that if you include the qualifying campaign for South Africa 2010 and the finals themselves, in the seven games in which the striker has found the net, his side have never lost, garnering five wins and two draws. Moreover he struck Uruguay's first goal on all seven occasions.
A closer look at this accomplishment shows just how vital his strikes have been. He began in the home win against Bolivia in the opening round of South American qualifying, and was on target again on Matchday 3, opening the scoring in a 2-2 draw with Chile in Montevideo. He found the net next on Matchday 14 in Venezuela, in another game that finished 2-2. His fourth strike came two games later at home to Colombia, paving the way for a 3-1 victory for La Celeste. His final, and perhaps most important, qualifying goal was the one that levelled the scores away to Ecuador in the penultimate qualifying fixture, a match Uruguay would eventually win 2-1.
Here in South Africa, Mexico and now Korea Republic have also been on the receiving end of his goals. "As a striker, you're always looking to find the net. On this occasion, the goals allowed me to help the team through – that's the most important thing. Here what mattered was reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup," the player told FIFA.com just moments after the victory over the South Koreans in Port Elizabeth.
Sporting a jacket and loosely-knotted tie, Suarez could barely speak out of fatigue, the result of a hard afternoon's work chasing the tireless Koreans. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy," said Uruguay's two-goal hero. "The early strike helped calm us down but we sat back in the second half and tried to protect the lead. That allowed Korea Republic to get on top and we were suffering for a while. But after their equaliser we knew we had to start playing again, and luckily for us we managed to win it."
Although the Ajax man produced a subtle finish for his side's opener, the pick of his two goals was the second: a right-footed strike from the left side of the box that curled just inside the far post. "It was a good one, wasn't it?" he said with a broad smile on his face. "When I got on the ball the only option I had was to go for goal. I wasn't trying to put it there but the funny thing is I scored a similar goal for Ajax last year. I’m just telling you that so they don't say it was a coincidence."
With a host of journalists hoping to catch a word with the Celeste match-winner in the mixed zone, there was time for just one more question: what is Uruguay’s objective now? "We've achieved the first two of them but we need to take things game by game," he replied. "The 32 teams that started the World Cup came to South Africa with the aim of making the Final, but then that number came down to 16 and now we're in the last eight. So our objective has to be to go on and become world champions." If Super Suarez keeps on scoring the goals, who knows how far Uruguay can go?