Luis Suarez will miss Uruguay’s second match of the Copa America Centenario against Venezuela after struggling to shake off his hamstring problem, coach Oscar Tabarez confirmed on Wednesday.
Uruguay face Venezuela on Thursday in Group C in Philadelphia aiming to bounce back after suffering defeat to Mexico in their opening match on Sunday.
But Uruguay will head into the crucial game — a second defeat would almost certainly see them eliminated — without Suarez once more as the Barcelona star works his way back from a hamstring injury.
“Luis Suarez is still in recovery, it’s the 17th day, and he is still not ready. That being the case, he will not play,” Tabarez told a press conference.
The veteran Uruguay coach even suggested Suarez may not take any part in the tournament, hinting he could be held back to ensure his fitness for upcoming World Cup qualifying games.
Uruguay currently lead South America’s 2018 qualifying standings after six games.
“He’s an important player and this is an important competition but the most important thing for us are the qualifying games for the World Cup,” Tabarez said. “We are in the lead and the contribution of Suarez will be very important.”
Suarez, 29, injured his right hamstring on May 22 in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey victory over Sevilla.
Suarez is desperate to play in the Copa America after missing out on last year’s tournament as he served his global suspension for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in the 2014 World Cup.
Tabarez meanwhile said he is confident Uruguay can recover against Venezuela in a match he billed as “a kind of final.”
“I’ve got a good idea about the team I will pick and the situation we’re in. We know what to do to win this final,” Tabarez said.