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Uruguay v Netherlands

Tabarez blasts press for Suarez reaction

July 6, 2010
By Soccernet staff

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez has blasted the "shameful" criticism of his side's progression to the World Cup semi-finals on the back of Luis Suarez's game-saving handball against Ghana.

Luis Suarez was treated as a hero by team-mates
GettyImagesLuis Suarez: Continental enemy number one

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The football media has gone into overdrive dissecting and discussing the moral implications of the now infamous Suarez incident, in which he used his hands to block a goalbound shot deep into stoppage time in extra time to save a goal in Uruguay's win over Ghana in the quarter-finals.

Suarez was sent off but Asamoah Gyan missed the subsequent penalty, forcing a shootout that proved successful for Uruguay. Suarez was hoisted onto his team-mates' shoulders afterwards, sparking widespread debate about the validity of celebrating a victory earned only by breaking the laws of the game.

But when asked if the events surrounding his team's progression took the gloss off their semi-final appearance, Tabarez said: "I'm embarrassed by what is being asked by the British press. That is truly shameful. They have been speculating about an action that happens on a football pitch and is dealt with in the laws of the game. It happened in Australia's game with Ghana. It happened in 1990 when Uruguay played Spain and a player on the goalline blocked a shot with both hands.

"It was an instinctive act, nothing more. Suárez couldn't have foreseen that, afterwards, Ghana would miss the penalty. Don't talk to me about a lack of humility. The Uruguayan people bring out their collective personal strength when they have to. We are very proud, and we're upset by this topic. We're proud of our performances and what we've contributed to this World Cup. Uruguay went through the three previous games with hardly a yellow card, so please don't tell me we're cheats."

Suarez will miss Tuesday's showdown with the Netherlands due to the red card he received for the handball, further weakening a Uruguay team who were already underdogs. Tabarez hopes favouritism will be a burden for the Dutch, who are under immense pressure with their first ever World Cup now in sight.

Tabarez said: "The Dutch side will feel the burden of expectation far more than us. No-one really believes in us and the possibility we might win. We have to enjoy the World Cup and the match, make the most of it, because we know millions will be watching these players. This is a challenge, but also a reason for great happiness.''

Holland won all eight of their qualifying matches and have a 100% record in five matches in South Africa, including knocking out Brazil 2-1 in the quarter-final. Tabarez believes the key to his team's success is keeping star winger Arjen Robben under control, although he rejected suggestions that the Bayern Munich star is a 'diver.'

"He's a great footballer,'' said Tabarez. "He's very fast, very nimble, very long strides. When he shifts his body, it's difficult to react. With Robben back, this Holland side benefits greatly. They were already very good without him, but now they have him contributing as well. Like any footballer who is hit on the pitch, well, I wouldn't say he is a 'cheat.' These are things that happen in football. It's up to the referee to determine the players' intentions.''

Tabarez admits Uruguay have not played brilliantly at this World Cup but still dreams of the South Americans returning to former glories, even if they are hampered by the attraction of Europe's money-laden leagues.

"We have a long way to go,'' he said. "The world nowadays is very different to that in the first half of the 20th century, when Uruguay hardly lost a match. The gap is widening more and more between the first and the third world. There is increasing independence of players going to Europe to earn their trade and that weakens our football. It would be a dream to become a footballing power again, but the world hasn't changed because we've won a few matches.''