Current UFWC champions Uruguay demonstrated in their recent World Cup qualifiers against Brazil and Peru that they have one of the best strikers in world football at their disposal. Oscar Tabarez’s side will prepare for the Copa America Centenario with a warm-up match against Trinidad & Tobago, and the return of Luis Suarez from a nine-month ban following the biting incident involving Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup may have come at just the right time. Suarez played a crucial scoring role for Uruguay as they picked themselves up from 2-0 down to get a draw against Brazil, and set up Edinson Cavani’s winner against Peru, again proving his worth as a national star who will be the difference toward qualifying for the 2018 World Cup and retaining the UFWC title they took off Chile last November.
There can be no question that Suarez has developed into one of the best strikers in world football, with the Uruguayan international enjoying a wonderful goal-scoring season with FC Barcelona. The 29-year-old is part of the most feared attacking trio at domestic level, with Suarez forming a formidable partnership with Lionel Messi and Neymar; the trio have already amassed over 100 goals in all competitions, with Suarez contributing 46 to the incredible total, placing him firmly in the running for the Trofeo Pichichi alongside Cristiano Ronaldo with 26 La Liga goals to his name. It is no surprise that Coral have made Barcelona favourites to win the Champions League, and if Suarez carries his superb club form onto the international stage, then Uruguay could well pull off a surprise at the Copa America. He is certainly at the peak of his powers at a time when Uruguay need him most, although it remains to be seen how he copes with the pressure and focus that will put upon him following his return from his latest controversy.
Suarez instantly stands out as Tabarez’s go-to man in Uruguay’s quest for top quality firepower and crucial goals that could secure qualification to the 2018 World Cup, but he may ultimately have to carry the expectation of an entire nation on his shoulder. He certainly enjoys a strong partnership with Edinson Cavani, but Suarez’s strike partner continues to be a bit-part player at Paris Saint-Germain where his career has stagnated; Cristhian Stuani and Abel Hernandez may be impressing in the English Championship but they may find it difficult to impose themselves against the calibre of defender they will meet at the Copa America, while Diego Rolan has only scored four goals in 24 appearances for Bordeaux. Other national team managers have been more fortunate with strikers hitting form at the right time, particularly Antonio Conte and Italy who are hopeful of something better this time at Euro 2016 this summer, but while the Azzuri are considered dark horses with Coral in the latest football betting odds, Uruguay only have Suarez as their in-form striker to pin their hopes on for goals in the Copa America.
Uruguay fans can only hope that their star player has knuckled down and put all the controversy behind him. The player himself has vowed that he will never change the way he plays football, although admitted that he has been working on controlling his nerves and anxiety ahead of his return to the international stage. His importance for Uruguay cannot be understated, but within that comes the responsibility that Suarez must concentrate on his football and not allow other factors to influence him; there will always be the potential for opposition defenders to wind the striker up and use other tactics to put him off his game, but Suarez has clearly illustrated just how good he is when he has been focused and on his game for FC Barcelona this season. It is this level of quality and goal-scoring ability that Uruguay need to come to the fore if they are to retain their UFWC title and have a chance of winning the Copa America.