ROY HODGSON has given Luis Suarez extra motivation to return from injury and put England to the sword by claiming the Uruguay striker can only be considered as one of the best players on the planet if he lights up the World Cup.
Suarez hopes to be back in action following the knee injury he endured at the end of May in Sao Paulo on Thursday when the tournament hopes of both sides will be on the line.
The Liverpool forward did not feature in his country’s 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica on Saturday and is desperate to face England, who will be seeking to recover from their own 2-1 reverse to Italy.
The controversial Suarez, who has twice been handed lengthy bans by the Football Association during his time in the Premier League, plundered 31 goals last season as he made the world sit up and take note of his talents.
But asked if the Anfield star belonged in an elite group of world stars, England coach Hodgson said: “I think he will only be at that level when he shows it on this particular stage.
“If you are saying, ‘Do I think he has got the potential? Is he a wonderful footballer?’ Yes, he sure is.
“But if you are really going to put him up there with Maradona, Pele, Beckenbauer and Cryuff, then you might even argue that Messi needs to have that sort of tournament to get up there with the legends of football.
“Andrea Pirlo was challenging that category. He has done it time and time again, shown what a wonderful footballer he is because this is the stage you have got to do it on really.
“Being a great player in your league will get you lots of plaudits, but for the world to recognise you are one of the all-time greats you have got to do it at the World Cup.”
The Italy result doesn’t change anything. We’ve still got two games to show what we can do
Defeat against Uruguay is unthinkable for England and Suarez’s Liverpool team-mate Jordan Henderson is not only wary of the threat posed by him but the likes of Edinson Cavani.
“If we win the next two games we’ll still be okay and that’s what we’ll look to do,” he said. “We’ll improve again.
“There’s not just Luis. They have a lot of other good players, but in terms of Luis, he is a fantastic player and you’ve just got to deal with him like any other player on the pitch because they’ve got people like Cavani and Forlan, top players.
“We’ll look to prepare well and concentrate on Uruguay as a team.”
Daniel Sturridge, who scored England’s solitary goal on Saturday, added: “It [the Usuguay match] is a big game but these are the games everyone looks forward to.
“We all want to play in it and regardless of whether we’d won today or not, we’d have still gone into it with a positive mentality and positive attitude, looking to win the match.
“The fact Uruguay lost [against Costa Rica] doesn’t really change anything. If they’d have won their game they’d still want to beat us and secure their advance to the next round as early as possible.
“The Italy result doesn’t change anything. We’ve still got two games to show what we can do. There are two games to win.
“It’s just important we continue playing the way we did against Italy.
“I thought we played very well [against them], it was just unfortunate. There were two very good sides out there but they got the breaks and we didn’t.
“We played some good football and worked very hard as a team and created a lot of chances. We’re disappointed because we deserved something out of the game but sometimes you don’t get the breaks.”