Luis Suarez is one of the stars of the Uruguay team for obvious reasons: he is a world-class finisher with remarkable technical ability, is blessed with a powerful shot and has the ability to outjump opponents, which means he also poses a serious aerial threat.
Suarez was only 11 when he left his native city of Salto to travel nearly 500 kilometres to Montevideo, where he joined the youth ranks of the fabled Nacional club. Here he polished his skills before making his debut in May 2005 in a Copa Libertadores match against Junior de Barranquilla.
In his one and only full season with el Bolso, the striker made an invaluable contribution to the team’s successful quest for the 2005/2006 Uruguayan Championship, notching up 12 goals. This feat soon brought him to the attention of Dutch side FC Groningen, who signed the front-runner in the summer of 2006 after barely a year in the Uruguayan top flight.
In January 2007 the club would not release him for Uruguayan youth team duty at the South American U-20 Championship, the qualifiers for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada™. However, Suarez could claim the consolation prize of a senior international debut a month later when Oscar Tabarez started him in a friendly against Colombia in Cucuta, which ended in a 3-1 victory for la Celeste. Incidentally, the match also saw the forward receive his marching orders five minutes from time.
After firing 14 goals in 35 appearances for Groningen, Suarez was sold to Dutch giants Ajax, but prior to making the switch, the forward participated in the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada where he formed a strike partnership with Edinson Cavani. Uruguay went on to reach the quarter-finals with Suarez contributing two goals of his own, one of which came right at the death as Uruguay were eliminated by the USA in a 2-1 reverse.
It came as little surprise, then, when Tabarez installed him in the starting eleven for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa qualifying campaign, and Suarez returned the favour with strikes in the opening game against Bolivia, and against Chile two games later.
He also repaid Ajax’s investment in him in spades by racking up 20 goals in the 2007/2008 season and 28 in 2008/2009, thereby copper-fastening his position in Tabarez’s line-up. Out of the 20 qualifying games that la Celeste negotiated on their way to the FIFA World Cup, the striker played all but one of them, only missing the Bolivia game having exceeded his quota of yellow cards.
He also found the net against Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, and demonstrated that beyond possessing a goalscorer’s instinct, it is his ability to create scoring opportunities that makes him such an indispensable part of this Uruguay team.