By scoring once with his left foot and once with his right, with two headed goals sandwiched in between, Luis Suarez used all the weapons in his armoury to crush Chile and dominate the sporting headlines across South America. In inspirational and unstoppable form, the Liverpool striker became the first Uruguayan to score four goals in a single FIFA World Cup™ qualifier and earned a rousing standing ovation from the fans in Montevideo’s Estadio Centenario.
“It makes you want to cry, it fills you with joy when you receive an ovation like the one I got today. Especially for someone like me, who’s felt so much love for Uruguay since I was a child,” said the man of the hour after the match. “The game went like a dream and I tried to enjoy every minute I was on the pitch,” continued the Salto-born star. “My goals? It doesn’t matter who scores them, what matters is the team winning at home and moving up the table.”
Voted the most valuable player at the 2011 Copa America, which Uruguay won, in electric form for his club and included in the shortlist for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2011, Suarez’s performance on Friday night lived up to every possible expectation. Even shorn of the guile of injured strike-partner Diego Forlan - the adidas Golden Ball winner at South Africa 2010 - Suarez proved more than capable of sinking Chile and giving La Roja goalkeeper Claudio Bravo nightmares.
As well as taking charge of all his side’s set-pieces using his wand-like right foot, Suarez found the net with his left from distance and with a close-range header before the first half was out. Another header and a pinpoint first-time right-foot strike followed in the second period to complete the rout and carve his name into Uruguayan football history.
Staggering statisticsStill only 24 years of age, this product of Nacional de Montevideo’s youth system has already racked up five years' experience in the European game – having shone for Dutch outfits Groningen and Ajax prior to signing for Liverpool in January this year. At senior international level he has now struck 26 times in 52 matches, averaging a goal every other game, and taking him level with the tally of Sebastian ‘El Loco’ Abreu and just six behind Forlan, La Celeste’s all-time top scorer.
“I’d scored four goals in a game once or twice for Ajax, but never for the national team. I’m obviously really proud,” said Suarez, who now leads the South American Zone scorers’ charts in Brazil 2014 qualifying. “This was just the game we wanted, picking up the win that our fans deserved against direct rivals for a World Cup qualifying spot.”
Beaming from ear to ear and with the matchball tucked under his arm, Suarez signed off by saying that “Uruguay showed what they’re all about”, before dedicating his stellar showing “to my wife, who celebrated her birthday yesterday, and to my daughter, who couldn’t come to the game tonight”.
Next up for Uruguay and their on-fire front-runner is 15 November’s friendly away to Italy and, after this display, the 2006 world champions are sure to be very wary indeed.