Suarez champing at the bit as Uruguay bite ban ends
'Chewy' Luis will play his first competitive international since the 2014 World Cup shame this weekend
Luis Suarez plays his first competitive match for Uruguay on Friday night almost two years after he was thrown out of the World Cup in disgrace, and he's is champing at the bit to be back in action.
"I know it is special because a lot of time has passed but more than anything I feel like a player who is coming to give the best I can," explained Suarez. "The only thing I want to do is play with the national side again and enjoy the warmth of the fans."
The last time Suarez pulled on the light blue shirt of Uruguay was against Italy in a 2014 World Cup group game in Brazil. Having produced a sumptuous two-goal display five days earlier in the win against England, Suarez brought shame on himself by biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.
Having had previous when it came to dining out on opponents, Suarez was banned from football for four months and handed a nine-match international suspension. Though he's played in some friendlies since his snacking shame, Suarez hasn't played a competitive fixture for Uruguay for 640 days.
But the ban hasn't blunted his goalscoring skills and this season he's netted 46 goals in 47 games for Barcelona. Now Uruguay are hoping Suarez will reproduce his exploits on Friday night against Brazil in a qualifier for the 2018 World Cup. Uruguay lie second in the ten-team qualifying pool, three points behind Ecaudor but two clear of Brazil, Paraguay and Chile.
"No-one is going to change the way I play," declared the 29-year-old striker, although he conceded that he had made alterations to his mental preparation. "I have been working over the last few weeks on trying to control my anxiety, my nerves... I am being more intelligent about a lot of things, trying to take advantage of the situations life is putting in front of me."
Those comments will cheer Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez, who revealed he and his coaching staff have also been working with Suarez on improving his mindset. "As a person, he must have emotions, he must have a lot going on in his head after almost two years away from the national team," said Tabarez. "One of the objectives that we set out is for him to think about playing football and nothing else."
And Tabarez warned Suarez that opponents might want to test his self-control in future matches. "He is going to play against teams who recognise the potential he has and who are going to do everything they can to stop him," said the Uruguay coach. "So he has to be very fresh, more than mature."