In Suarez's absence Uruguay will lean even more heavily on Forlan
His strike partner in this tournament,
Between them, Forlan and Suarez have scored six of the team's seven goals in helping Uruguay reach the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1970. The pair shared an embrace after the final whistle against Ghana: relief giving way to joy, the fact that Suarez would miss the semifinal against Holland barely registering.
Whether his foul was instinctive or premeditated, whether Suarez a hero or a cheat, it was a risk worth taking: he sacrificed himself for the chance, albeit an unlikely one, of his team winning. He put his team first. It has not always been like that for Suarez, a prolific striker for whom goals have always been the least of his problems.
"I had a really hard time growing up," Suarez told
Suarez buckled down and, after one season at Nacional, in 2006 he earned a move to Groningen in Holland, where his discipline problems spilled over onto the pitch. In January 2007, he received three yellow cards and one red card in a five-game spell, in which he also scored four goals. It was typical Suarez. One month later, he was sent off on his Uruguay debut.
He moved to Ajax the following season, continuing to deliver goals and trouble in equal measure. Ajax had to suspend him for a halftime punch-up with teammate
Forlan, on the other hand, had joined Manchester United six months before the 2002 World Cup. He only scored 10 league goals in three-and-a-half seasons there, but before then he was fearing for his future, and wondering if he had made the right decision, at 16, to turn down a career as a professional tennis player.
Forlan's father Pablo was a right winger for Uruguayan giants Penarol and Sao Paulo, and played for Uruguay in the 1966 and 1974 World Cups. Forlan's grandfather,
Pastoriza recommended that Independiente take a look at Forlan when he was 17, by which stage he had got used to travelling alone and spending time away from his family. "I had played for a while before Independiente," Forlan explained. "I was in the Penarol reserves and also spent a year with another Uruguayan side, Danubio. I'll never forget living alone in a room in the club's hotel when I first arrived. I was used to being a long way from home as I had spent time in Nancy in France. It was very difficult then as I didn't speak the language and the lifestyle was different. I missed my friends and family."
He impressed at Independiente but it was a slow rather than spectacular progression. "We looked at his skills and it only took 10 minutes to see that he had the talent to be a great player," said youth coach
But he was stuck with the youth team, playing in Argentina's fourth division, until reserve coach
Instead, Forlan was sent back to the reserves as Menotti wanted to free up one of the precious foreign berths. "I wasn't talking very much with the boss. He preferred the others. Maybe he didn't like the way I played." It was only when
"At first I thought I was too young to play there and my ambition was just to score goals, but I was happy to do what I was told," said Forlan. "I just wanted to play football." And that's what he did: given confidence by Trossero, he hit 18 goals in 36 games in 2000-01 and 12 in 18 in late-2001 before moving to United in January 2002.
That period was crucial to his development as an all-round player: at his current club Atletico Madrid, Forlan spent part of last season playing in midfield while in Uruguay's recent games, he has played center forward (against France), deep-lying playmaker (against South Africa) and left wing (against South Korea).
After he left England, his career took off again: at Villarreal, he won the Pichichi award for La Liga's top scorer and helped the side reach the Champions League semi-finals; at current club Atletico, he was Pichichi again in 2009, and last season scored the winning goal in the Europa League final for the club's first major trophy in 14 years. His performances in South Africa have sealed his status as one of the world's best players.
World Cup goals at 23, successful moves to Europe and lots and lots of goals: if Forlan is Uruguay's present, Suarez represents its future. The pair can only hope that they will be reunited in attack in the World Cup final next Sunday.