ROSTOV-ON-DON (Reuters) - Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez has given his full backing to Luis Suarez after his hat-trick of missed chances against Egypt ahead of Wednesday’s game against World Cup whipping boys Saudi Arabia in Rostov-On-Don.
Tabarez had defended Suarez immediately after the 1-0 win over Egypt in their opening game in Group A by saying footballing greats such as Pele, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi had all had poor games in World Cups.
“I mentioned those names to underline that humans aren’t robots programmed to perform in a certain way, we have to be patient and supportive at times like this,” Tabarez told a news conference on Tuesday.
“We can all agree that perhaps he didn’t have the best of matches against Egypt but his power is still intact. When a footballer performs badly they are more unhappy about it than anyone else.
“On bad days you must offer them the tools so they can overcome it and make better contributions. We have advised him to stay calm.”
Suarez will make his 100th appearance for Uruguay on Wednesday and Tabarez hailed the Barcelona forward’s contribution to the national team.
“Time sure flies. 100 matches is a very important number for players but it’s not simply a number, it means much more because in a lot of those games he has been decisive,” added Tabarez, who has coached Uruguay since Suarez made his international debut in 2007.
“He has always played a pivotal role for us since he came into the team from the under-20 side, scoring a lot of goals and providing a lot of assists too.”
Victory over Saudi Arabia, hammered 5-0 by hosts Russia in the tournament curtain raiser, would seal Uruguay’s place in the last-16 of the World Cup for the third time in a row, should Egypt fail to beat Russia on Tuesday.
A former teacher, Tabarez was asked how he felt when he saw viral videos of children at schools in Uruguayan wildly celebrating Jose Gimenez’s late winner against Egypt.
“I’m so proud when I see small children watching Uruguay score a last-minute goal, seeing how emotional they became and how they all hugged each other,” he said.
“They will never forget that moment and they’ll tell their children and grandchildren about it. I’m proud of how football is lived in my country. We talk about it a lot with the players, it’s part of what keeps us motivated.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge