Suárez frustrates Uruguay in Brazil again after penalty miss
SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — Uruguay striker Luis Suárez left the pitch of the Arena Fonte Nova in tears on Saturday after his penalty shootout miss gave underdogs Peru a place at the Copa América semifinals. It was a bitter end to the 32-year-old’s disappointing season, and added yet another frustrating chapter to his international career in Brazil.
The veteran striker failed to score or perform well in both knockout stage matches he played in Brazil, the 0-0 draw with Peru in Salvador and the 2-1 semifinal defeat against the hosts of the 2013 Confederations Cup in Belo Horizonte.
The striker’s litany of missteps and bad luck associated with Brazil is such that Él País, one of Uruguay’s leading newspapers, was inspired to run a headline in its sports section on Sunday stating: “Brazil not even on vacations, Luis.”
The veteran often seemed aloof and slower than normal during the current edition of Copa América, in contrast to his always committed strike partner Edinson Cavani. Some of his poor play can be blamed on a recent right knee surgery that risked Suárez’ participation in the tournament.
Fans at the Fonte Nova in Salvador cheered him after Uruguay’s elimination anyway, but critics wonder whether he should have come to Brazil at all since he didn’t seem to be completely fit.
Suárez left Copa América with only two goals, one in the 4-0 rout of tournament minnow Ecuador and another from the spot in the 2-2 draw against Japan’s young team. He did score once against Peru, but the goal was disallowed by the referee because it was deemed offside.
The striker’s poorly taken penalty in the shootout was saved by Peru’s Pedro Gallese with his belly. All the other shooters scored, and Peru won 5-4 to face Chile on Wednesday for a place in the July 7 final. The match will take place in Porto Alegre, a city close to Brazil’s border with Uruguay.
Suárez troubles in Brazil began at the 2013 Confederations’ Cup semifinal against the hosts at the Mineirão Stadium. He was anonymous in Uruguay’s 2-1 defeat, while Cavani scored and led the team in chasing the game until the very end.
One year later, at a group stage match of the 2014 World Cup in Natal, Suárez bit the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in Uruguay’s 1-0 win and was suspended by soccer governing body FIFA for nine matches. The incident at the Arena das Dunas meant he didn’t even witness the game at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro where his team was eliminated 2-0 by Colombia in the round of 16.
Copa América 2019 was a big chance for the veteran not only to turn around his fortunes in Brazil, but also rise above the criticism he has received at his club Barcelona.
Suárez scored just once in the latest edition of the Champions League, and was one of the most criticized players in the crushing 4-0 defeat against Liverpool at Anfield in the second leg of the semifinals. He was the second top goal scorer of the Spanish league in Barça’s title winning campaign, netting 21, but was largely outshone by Messi, who had 36 goals.
The Uruguayan striker didn’t say much after his team’s elimination, but thanked fans for their support.
“I have to stress the support after the moment I had to live,” Suárez said in a low voice. “It was very sad for me and that support from the crowd and my teammates is fundamental.”