Uruguay striker Luis Suarez heads to next month’s World Cup in Russia looking for a measure of redemption after ending the previous two editions of the tournament in disgrace.
Suarez was expelled from the 2014 World Cup after inexplicably sinking his teeth into the shoulder of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during a group match. He was subsequently slapped with a nine-match ban from playing for Uruguay and a four-month ban from soccer.
In 2010, a deliberate goalline handball by the striker had denied opponents Ghana a place in the semi-finals of the tournament in South Africa.
Suarez has since managed to avoid controversy on the scale that had seriously dented his reputation. Yet with several blots on his career, including accusations of racial abuse and diving, one of his targets will be to keep his volatile alter ego in check.
He will also hope that his reputation as a sharp-eyed goalscorer can dominate the headlines as Uruguay look to improve on their fourth-placed finish in 2010.
Suarez’s appetite for goals has shown no signs of diminishing and the 31-year-old has netted more than 150 for Barcelona in all competitions since joining the Spanish side from Liverpool four years ago.
Tenacious and technically gifted, Suarez is equally effective with his back to goal as he is running at defenders. With a strong will to win, Suarez is the player Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez will look to when his side needs inspiration.
Despite being outscored by strike partner Edinson Cavani in the South American qualifying competition, Suarez played a key role scoring five goals including the equaliser in a 2-2 draw at five-times world champions Brazil.
Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer, who struck his 50th goal in the 2-0 win over Czech Republic in a successful China Cup campaign earlier this year, has forged a keen understanding with Cavani and the pair’s form could determine how far the former champions progress.