NATAL, Brazil (AP) — The must-win World Cup encounter between England and Uruguay could boil down to which team best targets Luis Suarez. Both former champions realize a loss Thursday could signal the end of their World Cup campaign after just two matches.
Uruguay, semifinalists in 2010, will be desperate to have Liverpool striker Suarez back after he missed the opening loss to Costa Rica with a knee problem. He has declared himself fit, and if he starts Uruguay will be trying to feed him as many balls as possible.
England, all too familiar with his goal-scoring abilities from the Premier League, will be aiming to shut Suarez down.
The other matches on day eight at the World Cup are in Group C, with Colombia taking on Ivory Coast — the winners of the opening group matches — and Japan against Greece in a struggle to stay alive in the tournament.
Things to watch for Thursday:
FOCUSING FORWARD: There are six Liverpool players in the England squad, and they all know better than most the threat that their club-mate Suarez can pose.
Having Suarez consigned to the bench was a major setback for Uruguay in its opening 3-1 loss to a rampaging Costa Rican team. Even if he plays, though, Uruguay has a weakened defense because of the loss of captain Diego Lugano. He was ruled out of the England match due to a left knee strain.
Suarez had surgery on his left knee immediately after the Premier League season and while Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez is happy to have him back, he's lowering expectations.
"In the case of whether Luis plays, there is a possibility that he won't be like the Luis Suarez that was the top goal scorer of the Premier League," Tabarez said.
Suarez scored 31 goals to help Liverpool finish second in England's top flight, helping in some way restore his image that was tarnished after bans for racism and biting and his blatant handling of the ball on the goal-line that deprived Ghana a winning goal in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals.
Uruguay will be relying on Diego Forlan and Edinson Cavani to take some heat off Suarez as he finds his feet.
England lost its opener 2-1 to Italy, but took some consolation from the impressive performances of Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge.
England's biggest concern remains Wayne Rooney's inability so far to score a goal in three World Cups. Rooney played out wide against Italy, and there's been speculation in Britain that the Manchester United star may not start against Uruguay.
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