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 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.”
English 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,” coach 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 up a level and powered in the goals that saw him voted the Premier League’s best player last season. And despite lacking sharpness at times, he still managed to recapture the scoring form that helped Liverpool finish second last season with 31 goals.
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.
COLOMBIA 2, IVORY COAST 1
BRASILIA, Brazil — Colombia qualified for the World Cup’s knockout stage, beating Ivory Coast after scoring twice in a six-minute spell in the second half.
Driven on by a partisan pro-Colombian crowd inside the Estadio Nacional, the South Americans went ahead through James Rodriguez’s powerful header from a corner in the 64th minute before substitute Juan Quintero added a second on a break following a defensive error.
Colombia held on to its lead, despite a brilliant 73rd-minute goal by Gervinho, for a second straight win in Group C. With Japan and Greece drawing 0-0 later Thursday, Colombia is assured of finishing in the top two spots in Group C.
JAPAN 0, GREECE 0
NATAL, Brazil — Reduced to 10 men after captain Costas Katsouranis was sent off in the 38th minute with his second booking, Greece held on for a draw with Japan that kept both alive in Group C and sent rival Colombia through to the knockout round of the World Cup.
Both teams inserted new strikers in search of goals and a first victory, but ultimately the main objective was survival and both achieved that with one match left in group play. Japan would have been eliminated with a loss.
Once Katsouranis was sent off after a rough challenge on Makoto Hasebe, Greece withdrew into a defensive setup and held firm. Greece surrendered three goals in a loss to Colombia, but even short-handed was better organized against Japan and avoided any critical mistakes.
By wire sources