The Agenda: Gus Poyet warns England about Luis Suarez's 'deadly beauty'

Three Lions have got out of the group stages in the last 11 World Cups - but Suarez's return could upstage Roy's young stars

Action Images / Carl Recine Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez

For all that we lament nearly half a century of hurt, there is another long and unbroken record that is less well remarked upon about England’s performance at World Cups.

1966 might be the last time the Three Lions were the world’s best but a more modest achievement is still worth a mention: not since 1958 have we failed to make it out of the group stage.

Granted, we have missed three of the 14 World Cups since then. And we might have crawled rather than strode out of our qualification group at times (2010 and the woeful effort in South Africa springs to mind) but England have always found a way, somehow, to extend their World Cup adventure.

The historical precedent is the good news. The bad news is that Uruguay – England’s next opponents in their Sao Paulo World Cup reckoning – are the one team left in the competition that can spring a truly world class talent from the bench to try and change their route.

Injury has dimmed Luis Suarez’s relevance to this match but a warning from the bosom of North East football should remind us all that he still represents a very real danger to England’s World Cup hopes.

Suarez is still recovering from knee surgery with his pre-tournament claims of fitness rather undermined by the sad sight of him sitting on the bench as Uruguay were taken apart by a surprisingly dangerous Costa Rica. But if there is any chance of him taking part on Thursday, Suarez could represent England’s Waterloo in Brazil.

That is certainly the belief of Gustavo Poyet, Sunderland’s Uruguyan coach. However much his personal friendship with the player might colour his judgement, it remains a warning that must be heeded by Roy Hodgson, who controversially argued that Suarez does not yet belong in the world class category yesterday.

Poyet agrees about the world class bit, by the way. Not that it matters in any way to his hopes of dispatching England from Brazil.

“I think he’s beautiful because he cares a lot. I think winning means life to him,” Poyet says. Funnily enough, before lavishing him with praise Poyet first has to tuck into some humble pie. The first time he saw him, the Sunderland boss thought him nothing special.

“Punto Aleste is a small place 140km from Montevideo where people go in the summer. It’s a beautiful place,” he said.

“I was spending time in Uruguay at that time and I went to a summer friendly game. The big teams play against each other in the summer, and it was a game between Penarol and Nacional. He would have been 17 or 18. He played all right, but not for one minute did I think he would be that good.

“It’s incredible. I remember doubting him because he had scored his goals in Holland, but he has proved them wrong.”

Is he the best player his country has ever produced? Warming to his theme, the Uruguayan boss concurs. “I’ll say yes, why not. I saw him once when he was very young and I couldn’t really see it – I’m not good at that, but, after, when he came here and started playing I thought ‘mamma mia what a player!’

“He’s rare because he goes on the pitch and forgets about everything, he just thinks about winning football games and scoring goals.

“Nowadays that’s rare because of the society we’ve created – because we are all more or else the same age – sometimes a player doesn’t worry too much if they don’t play because he’s earning so much money, but Suarez doesn’t have that attitude.”

The worry for England fans still concerned about their rickety defence is that Suarez is not a player who is easily marked.

Poyet says: “Sometimes in England, you can get used to marking a certain type of striker, without much mobility, and you can have a look at him. Luis will disappear and come from somewhere else, so you have to be very smart on the day.”

To be fair to Hodgson, he seemed to concentrate England’s efforts on their own qualities rather than worrying about the opposition. Do those qualities include Wayne Rooney though?

“For me, it’s simple – you play your best offensive player in his best position. Sometimes, you can try to play a player where he can give you a hand for some other reason, but I think Rooney needs to play down the middle. Depending on the game, he can give you a hand wide, but not the other way around.

“Having seen how we (Uruguay) performed down the middle with the two centre-halves (against Costa Rica), I think if you play Rooney and Sturridge down the middle then you can cause a problem there. You want your best scorers playing down the middle.

“The next game for England and us is absolutely massive.

“Make no mistake, either team can be practically out of the World Cup after five or six days.”

Interestingly, the next time the World Cup comes around, Poyet’s son Diego could don either the white of England or the light blue of Uruguay.

For Poyet, it’s a difficult call – and one that he will leave to his son.

“Diego is eligible for England, Uruguay, Spain. I’m very proud of him.

“I tell him a hundred thousand times to listen to me and he did listen to me.

“He has a very big decision to make.”


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