RIO DE JANEIRO, (Reuters) – Colombia will not treat Uruguay any differently just because they will be without disgraced striker Luis Suarez, Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said yesterday, the day before the start of the World Cup knockout round. High-scoring Colombia, one of the tournament’s surprises, meet the tough-tackling Uruguayans in their second-round match at the Maracana with a place in the quarter-finals against either Brazil or Chile the prize for the winners.
“Whichever way you look at it, they will always be a difficult rival, whatever the circumstances,” Pekerman said in response to one of persistent questions from reporters about the expulsion from the World Cup of Uruguay’s Suarez.
The striker, widely considered Uruguay’s best player, was hit with a nine-game ban on Thursday for biting an opponent in a group match against Italy earlier this week. Pekerman, a former national coach of his native Argentina, highlighted the battling qualities and fierce sense of unity of Uruguay who reached the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup and are the reigning South American champions.
“All the players know each other because the coach has built a very solid group with almost no changes over eight years,” he said.
“That gives the players total belief in the way Uruguay play and the coach gets the very most out of all his players.”
He cited the danger posed by Uruguay in the air from corners and free kicks, especially from Diego Godin who scored the winning goal against Italy on Tuesday with a header.