The striker will not play football again for four months, but the coach of the nation he would have been facing on Saturday says the Celeste remain a force without him
By Greg Stobart at the Estadio Maracana
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman refused to be drawn on the “sensitive” issue of Luis Suarez’s four-month ban ahead of the crucial last 16 World Cup clash against Uruguay on Saturday.
Suarez will miss the match after the Uruguay striker received a nine-match international ban and a four-month suspension from all football for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in their final Group D match.
In his pre-match press conference at the Maracana, Pekerman refused to be drawn on the issue and insisted the Celeste remain a “top notch” team without their star man.
Pekerman said: “Listen, this is a very sensitive and very delicate issue. I understand it but our concern is Uruguay as a team. We are preparing to face their team tomorrow and that is all.
“We’ve always thought only of Uruguay. They are a top notch opponent that we are going to face. It is a very experienced team with a lot of abilities and a successful cycle.
“They were always going to be a difficult opponent anyway. I’m very busy with Colombia and our problems and considerations. We will think about our own team.”
Colombia head into the game in fine form after winning all three of their group matches, and Pekerman has urged his players to continue their momentum and book a place in the quarter-final.
“This is a huge test for us. We know the abilities of our opponent and their experience,” he added.
“This will be a demanding test for Colombia. We will have to show that we are up for it. It’s important not to lose the optimism and faith we have.
“We are seeing in the World Cup that a lot of new things are happening that didn’t happen in past World Cups. It makes it a beautiful tournament.”