RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Colombia coach Jose Pekerman avoided questions about Luis Suarez, ducked any assessment of the striker's punishment and didn't mention his name ahead of Saturday's World Cup second-round match against Uruguay.
Pekerman, an Argentine who coached Argentina at the 2006 World Cup, repeated several times on Friday that Uruguay is a "top-notch opponent" — steering the focus away from Suarez and the Uruguayan forward's lengthy ban from football.
"Listen, at this time this is a very delicate issue," Pekerman responded when asked about Suarez. "But our concern is Uruguay as a team and we are working in order to play against them tomorrow. That's all there is to say."
Suarez was banned on Thursday from all football activities for four months, suspended from Uruguay's next nine internationals and fined for biting Giorgio Chiellini in a 1-0 victory over Italy which sealed the South Americans' place in the last 16.
Essentially, Pekerman said his team has had its own problems.
It is missing four injured players — led by striker Radamel Falcao — who should have been in the 23-man World Cup squad. The other three are midfielders Aldo Ramirez, Edwin Valencia and defender Amaranto Perea.