SAO PAULO – Dropping to the turf on the left knee that was surgically repaired less than a month ago, Uruguay striker Luis Suarez was euphoric. Scoring a second goal against England sealed a 2-1 win on Thursday to revive Uruguay’s World Cup campaign and cap a remarkable recovery.
But it meant even more than that to the Liverpool player.
Vilified after being banned by the English Football Association for racially abusing one opponent and biting another in two separate incidents in the Premier League, Suarez seemed to revel in inflicting England’s second successive loss in Brazil.
“I dreamt this,” Suarez said at the Itaquerao Stadium. “I’m enjoying this moment, because of all I suffered, the criticism I received. So, there you go.”
England’s hopes of advancing from Group D to the round of 16 are now in real jeopardy after the team’s worst World Cup start in more than half a century. While England is stuck on zero points, Uruguay is off the mark after Suarez made an instant impact on his return from surgery.
“Before the game, too many people in England laughed about my attitude over the last few years,” Suarez said. “This is a very good time for me. I want to see what they think now.”
Of Uruguay’s six efforts on target, five were from Suarez — including the two that beat goalkeeper Joe Hart as England’s slack defending was exploited.
Suarez headed Uruguay in front before halftime and, after seeing his opener canceled out by Wayne Rooney’s first-ever World Cup goal, lashed in the winner in the 85th minute.
“It’s a demonstration of my strength,” Suarez said. “There were many doubts about my physical condition, but . . . in these games, I can be brave and show courage.”
Having also lost against Italy, England now faces the prospect of not advancing from the group stage for the first time since 1958.
“We are a team that is making progress but results decide everything and both results have been negative,” England manager Roy Hodgson said.
“Our chances (of progressing) are unbelievably slim,” added Hodgson, who is relying on Italy to beat Costa Rica on Friday and Uruguay on Tuesday.
Group D leader Italy, Costa Rica and Uruguay all have three points.
In England, Suarez has stepped it up a level and powered in the goals that saw him voted the Premier League’s best player last season.
On Thursday, Suarez was in the thick of the action in the opening minutes against an edgy England side, drawing an early save from Hart after a cross-shot.
“We are normally used to seeing him much more active in and around our penalty area than we saw him today,” Hodgson said.
When Suarez did break forward, though, he was a real menace.
Suarez’s first goal came in the 39th when Diego Godin picked up possession on the halfway line and sprayed it to Edinson Cavani on the left. Suarez easily evaded Phil Jagielka to head over Hart, seizing on defensive lapses just as Mario Balotelli did in Italy’s win.
“Maybe a few days ago I thought this wouldn’t be possible,” Suarez said.
But anything is possible in soccer — even Rooney finally scoring at a World Cup, tapping the ball home from close range in the 75th minute after connecting with Glen Johnson’s pass.
But it was rendered meaningless by Suarez’s devastating final touch.
Suarez’s Liverpool teammate, England captain Steven Gerrard, tried to clear a long punt by Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, and the ball glanced off the head of midfielder and back toward his own goal. Suarez ran onto it and beat Hart with a shot from close range before wheeling off to celebrate, raising two fingers in the air.
Suarez, for all his glee about beating England, did express sympathy for Gerrard, whose slip during a crucial game near the end of the Premier League campaign led to them both missing out on the title.
“He’s the best player I’ve played with on the pitch,” Suarez said. “This is an unlucky moment for him. I don’t like it when he hurts like this.”