Hatching a Plan for England to Stop Uruguay Forward Luis Suarez

Rob PollardFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2014

MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY - NOVEMBER 20:  Luis Suarez of Uruguay runs with the ball during leg 2 of the FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Uruguay and Jordan at Centenario Stadium Stadium on November 20, 2013 in Montevideo, Uruguay.  (Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images)
Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images

It's England's biggest match in years, and if the task facing Roy Hodgson's men wasn't daunting enough already, the return to the Uruguay side of Luis Suarez has certainly made things more complicated.

Suarez, arguably the best striker in world football, poses a great danger to England's World Cup involvement. Nullifying his threat is paramount.

He comes into this World Cup on the back of his finest season ever. As Liverpool made their resurgent leap from seventh to second, Suarez was scoring goals for fun—31 goals from 33 league games—regularly terrorising defenders with his movement and pace.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 11:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Newcastle United at Anfield on May 11, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The difficulty for England is the variety he possesses. He can play on the shoulder of the last defender, looking to run in behind using his electrifying pace, or he can drop deep and cause damage with his dribbling ability.

Footage of his league goals is proof of his multitude of scoring talents: long-range strikes, jinking runs ended with a ruthless finishing and tap-ins demonstrating his predatory instincts.

Predictably, he won the PFA Player of the Year award, with Patrice Evra, a player Suarez was charged by the English Football Association for racially taunting in 2011, voting for the Liverpool man. That, perhaps more than anything, showed not only a level of maturity from Evra we've come to expect but also what a fine season the Uruguayan truly had.

Suarez, though, is still doubted by some. His lack of goals against the very best sides remains a concern, with some suggesting he struggles on the big occasion.

His failure to score against any of the other top-four sides added fuel to the fire, and Suarez will be under pressure next season to improve his ratio against the very best. He may well see Thursday's crunch match with England as a chance to show his minority of doubters he is capable of performing on the biggest stage.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 05:  Kolo Toure of Liverpool consoles the dejected Luis Suarez of Liverpool following their team's 3-3 draw during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on May 5, 2014 in London, Engl
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Liverpool's 3-2 home win over Manchester City was a fine example. Suarez was expected to dominate Martin Demichelis, a player lacking pace and mobility, but it didn't go to script.

Demichelis' reading of the game allowed him to nullify Suarez all too easily, leaving the responsibility of creating and scoring goals to Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho. Suarez was left resorting to diving in an attempt to influence the game.

The worry for England is that not only do they have Suarez's movement to deal with, they also have to combat Edinson Cavani, a huge forward with a game totally different to his strike partner's. Cavani can bully defenders with his strength and physicality, as well as being aerially dominant.

Uruguay's strike pairing has a wonderful mix of attributes.

Worryingly, England's defence has its problems. Their two first-choice full-backs, Glen Johnson and Leighton Baines, struggled massively in their opening match against Italy, with the options beyond them so limited neither will be fearing the axe ahead of the Uruguay game, while their centre-halves remain someway short of the quality England have come to expect.

However, both Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka are capable of shutting out the Uruguay strikeforce.

What Cahill and Jagielka must avoid is getting too tight to Suarez. If they do that, he will wriggle away and very likely score when in on goal. Trying to stand Suarez up and time tackles well enough when he attempts to go past them will be key.

MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY - NOVEMBER 20:  Luis Suarez of Uruguay runs with the ball during leg 2 of the FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Uruguay and Jordan at Centenario Stadium Stadium on November 20, 2013 in Montevideo, Uruguay.  (Photo by Friedemann Vo
Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images

Cahill is likely to fancy the physical battle with Cavani, while Jagielka will more likely focus on Suarez, but it isn't just the responsibility of England's centre-backs. Jordan Henderson, Suarez's Liverpool teammate, may well be instructed to play deeper than usual in an attempt to combat Suarez in particular.

Quite how fit Suarez is after recovering from a knee injury in remarkable time is anybody's guess, and England will be hoping his rustiness is a benefit.

One thing you rarely get from Suarez is an easy game, but Cahill and Jagielka must shackle him as best they can or England could well be out before they have really got going.