Uruguay hitman Luis Suarez will not be fit to play in the Copa America Centenario on Sunday night, giving Mexico a huge boost ahead of their Group C clash.
Mexico are one of the favourites for the tournament and with Suarez unavailable thanks to a hamstring injury, their chances of beating the Celeste have improved dramatically.
Suarez powered home 59 goals for Barcelona last season and was desperately hoping to continue that form as he makes his return to international tournament action, a scene he has been banned from since he bit Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup.
Luis Suarez has been in phenomenal form for Barcelona this season but now has a hamstring injury
The 29-year-old (left) picked up the injury two weeks ago but still hopes to play his part for Uruguay
Mexico have been in fine form under new coach Juan Carlos Osorio and are unbeaten in their last 19 games
The striker returned to international duty in March but has been denied the chance to feature on a grand stage once more by his hamstring problem, sustained in the Copa del Rey final.
He will hope that it repairs itself in time for him to feature later in the tournament, but for the time being it gives El Tri the advantage going into their clash in Glendale, Arizona.
‘[Suarez] is one of the top five forwards in the world,’ said Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio ahead of the game.
His team go into the clash unbeaten in 19 games, the longest such streak in international football, and they have not let in a single goal in the new manager’s reign.
Mexico have gone 730 minutes without being breached at the back, beating the previous longest run in their history of 722, back in 1971.
Between star striker Javier Hernandez’s excellent season with Bayer Leverkusen and PSV midfielder Andres Guardado’s fine form, Osorio’s team are in fine fettle and high spirits.
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio is unbeaten in seven games since taking over the national side
Edinson Cavani is set to become the leading man for Uruguay due to the absence of Suarez
Uruguay midfielder Egidio Arevalo (left) believes his side can cope without Suarez against Mexico
MEXICO RECORD UNDER OSORIO
13th November 2015: Mexico 3-0 El Salvador
17th November 2015: Honduras 0-2 Mexico
10th February 2016: Mexico 2-0 Senegal
25th March 2016: Canada 0-3 Mexico
29th March 2016: Mexico 2-0 Canada
28th May 2016: Mexico 1-0 Paraguay
1st June 2016: Mexico 1-0 Chile
Jurgen Damm is the only injured player they have, with the winger replaced by Candido Ramirez on the eve of their Copa Centenario debut, but it is a minor problem in the scheme of things, especially when compared to Uruguay not having Suarez.
Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez confirmed the bad news about the striker. ‘Luis Suarez is completely ruled out of the game against Mexico,’ he said.
‘He’s a player that surprises us with his recovery, but he’s not ready. His injury only happened 14 days ago.’
Suarez made it back from injury to score twice against England at the last World Cup, although that was with the help of physiotherapist Walter ‘Holy Hands’ Ferreira, who sadly passed away in January.
‘If you want to know if he will be there against Venezuela, ask the doctor, not me,’ the coach added.
Uruguay midfielder Egidio Arevalo says his side always knew not having Suarez at the beginning of the tournament was a possibility.
‘We knew we weren’t going to have him from the start,’ he explained. ‘We’ll do the best we can without him. When teams know they won’t have to face Luis Suarez they might feel OK, but we have others who can step in.’
Edinson Cavani will have to take the main striking role, just as he may at his club PSG next season, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic leaving.
Not having Suarez makes Mexico favourites for the clash, but being the underdog is just what Jose Maria Gimenez likes.
The Atletico Madrid centre-back takes that mentality from his battles with Barcelona and Real Madrid and applies it with his country too.
‘We don’t want to be the favorites for a moment,’ he claimed. ‘We’ll do the same work we always do. We try to ignore everything else.’
Osorio followed a diplomatic line and said that he was unhappy Suarez will not be facing his side in Arizona.
Osorio has won all seven matches in charge of Mexico, who are yet to concede a goal under his leadership
Suarez made a miraculous recovery from injury two years ago to knock England out of the 2014 World Cup
‘It makes me sad that Luis Suarez isn’t available because I believe you prepare to compete with the best,’ he reasoned.
But inside when Mexico take on Uruguay the coach will be thrilled not to have to worry about the striker’s threat.
And with his absence, the chances of his team extending their clean sheet streak grows greatly. So do their chances of finishing top of the group and potentially avoiding Argentina in the next round.