Sao Paulo – Uruguay supporters who have spent the last three months supporting Liverpool will be in unfamiliar territory on Thursday – hoping that Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Glen Johnson all end up on the losing side.
National icon, and Liverpool player, Luis Suarez has converted an entire country into supporters of Brendan Rodgers’s Premier League team but this week the football-crazy nations three-million inhabitants will all be backing Uruguay against Liverpool’s England stars.
“This is the game that people are looking forward to most in Uruguay,” Suarez says of the clash in Sao Paulo.
“Its incredible to see how Uruguayans started to follow Liverpool last season; it made me feel proud to see an entire country waiting on the result of a Liverpool match.
There were people getting up at 7am so they could watch the midday kick-offs and then getting angry if they couldn’t watch one of the games because it was only available on pay-per-view TV.
There could be as many as seven Liverpool players on the pitch at the Corinthians Arena if Uruguay use Liverpool defender Sebastian Coates at some stage of the game. Five Liverpool players are expected to start for England and Suarez has agreed to swap shirts with his club captain Gerrard.
The striker finds himself in a similar position to four years ago when he had to ask the Uruguayan kit-man to pack extra shirts so he could swap with all his Ajax teammates in the Dutch side.
He was not able to play against the Netherlands in that World Cup semi-final because of suspension but club colleagues still wanted the Suarez shirt with the date and venue of the semi-final stitched into the jersey.
Both Johnson and captain Gerrard sent messages of support to Suarez when it was confirmed he needed surgery two weeks before the World Cup though both could be forgiven for hoping the striker delayed his return until after the England game.
It was less than a month ago that Dr Luis Francescoli, brother of legendary Uruguayan player Enzo, carried out the surgery on Suarez left knee, but with the help of personal physiotherapist Walter Ferreira he has made a speedy recovery.
Uruguay have held their collective breath as Suarez has undergone intensive physiotherapy and he was on the front pages of all Montevideo newspapers when he first reappeared at the teams national training camp to have lunch with teammates.
“The photograph they used of me strolling in through the main entrance was two years old. No wonder the report said: ‘He walked in without a limp,’’’ he says of the coverage.
There were crowds to greet him when he emerged from the hospital and reporters were dispatched to his home to await developments.
For a while it looked as though he might join Franck Ribery, Radamel Falcao and Marco Reus among the big stars missing the tournament completely but he is now ready for the moment of truth. Having top-scored in the Premier League last season with 31-goals, earning him the Golden Boot, he knows all about potential weaknesses in England’s defence and if he can expose them then Uruguay’s campaign will be well and truly back on course. – Sapa-dpa