SÃO PAULO: 2010 semifinalists Uruguay put hapless England on the brink of elimination with a Luis Suarez-inspired 2-1 win. Returning from knee surgery and facing several Liverpool team mates, Suarez scored a brilliant header to put Uruguay ahead then won the game with a lethal drive after Wayne Rooney had equalised with his first World Cup goal. “God Save The King!” read one proud banner over a photo of Suarez among the hordes of blue-clad Uruguayans dancing at the final whistle in Sao Paulo’s Corinthians arena.
The charismatic Suarez celebrated the first goal with his doctor, then showed class in hugging disconsolate Liverpool colleague and England captain Steven Gerrard at the end. “I dreamed about this. I am enjoying this moment after all the criticism I had to take,” said Suarez, who fought back tears after his second goal. The Uruguayan ace has had an up-and-down time in the Premier League with bans for racism and biting before winning last season’s Player of the Year award. Uruguay joined Italy and Costa Rica, who meet on Friday, on three points with England on zero after two losses in Group D.
Japan and Greece slugged out a 0-0 draw in Thursday’s last game, leaving them joint bottom of Group C with one point each and ensuring neither can catch group leaders Colombia. Greece captain and midfielder Kostas Katsouranis let his team down with a sending off for two yellow cards in a game full of huff-and-puff but lacking Suarez-style clinical finishing. Away from the on-field action, departing champions Spain were licking their wounds after a shock early exit from the tournament following losses to the Netherlands and Chile. Despite conceding seven goals in a humiliating end to their rule of world soccer, Spain’s players showed dignity in defeat, admitting they were outplayed and that an era had ended.
The 2010 World Cup winners, who also triumphed at the last two European Championships, have a meaningless final game against Australia to play before flying home and beginning the job of rejuvenating their ageing squad of past greats. Despondent Spanish fans could at least take heart from a talented group of young players waiting on the sidelines, starting with David De Gea who is likely to replace veteran captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas. The mood of realism in Spain could hardly be further from the wild euphoria in Chile where fans celebrated wildly one of the greatest conquests in their football history.
Chile face the Netherlands on Monday in their final Group B match, with both teams through but knowing defeat could see them face Brazil in the second round. “The team that filled the Maracana with football yesterday knows no bounds,” one Chilean newspaper commentator wrote. “Not even Brazil can fill them with fear.”
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