Forlan concern at Lansdowne turf
Published 29/03/2011 | 05:00
Diego Forlan was happy to be out of the Estonian snow and thawing out in Dublin's warm spring air last night, but even his sunny disposition couldn't disguise his concerns about the pitch at the Aviva Stadium.
The Uruguayan star had just spent an hour training on the balding turf at Lansdowne Road before he met the media, and while he tried to be polite when asked his impressions of the new stadium, he couldn't disguise his true feelings.
"The pitch is not very nice but I hope it is a good game," he said of a surface battered by Six Nations rugby, the recent dry period and Saturday's Euro 2012 match between Ireland and Macedonia.
But after their 2-0 defeat in the Tallinn snow last Friday night, you get the impression the visitors feel things could be worse.
The World Cup semi-finalists looked enthusiastic in training and coach Oscar Tabarez is set to field a strong team, with eight of the side who took the field against Holland in their 3-2 last-four defeat last July set to start, as well as captain Diego Lugano, who was suspended that night.
Napoli striker Edinson Cavani, linked with a big-money move to England, will play off Forlan, but Luis Suarez misses out with a groin injury.
While Forlan -- the World Cup's Golden Ball winner -- wasn't too keen on the pitch, he was looking forward to getting Uruguay back to winning ways after back-to-back defeats against Chile and the Estonians.
"The pitch is going to be the same for both of us," he said. "It's not the best pitch because there have been so many games, including rugby games, but it's quick and hopefully tomorrow it will be nice and the ball will roll well.
"This is like summer for us; in Estonia it was really freezing."
In contrast to Uruguay's almost full-strength team, Ireland's withdrawals leave Giovanni Trapattoni's squad looking as bare and patchy as some areas of the grass at Lansdowne.
Forlan has kept up his Sky Sports subscription since moving to Spain from Manchester United and while many in Tabarez's squad might peer at this evening's Irish line-up with some confusion, the striker will see some familiar names.
"It doesn't matter who they are playing, we are here to try and win the game," he said. "It doesn't matter if (Ireland) are young or old, every player from all the over world, when they get a chance to play for the national team they're going to do their best."
Uruguay's achievement in reaching the last four of the World Cup is all the more impressive given that they are a nation of less than four million people.
Much credit will go to manager Tabarez, who is in his second spell with the national team. He knows Trapattoni well after their paths crossed during the 1990s when he managed Cagliari and AC Milan.
While the Irish boss experiments, Tabarez is happy that he is fielding his strongest available team this evening, with Suarez the main man missing. He hasn't been surprised by the form of Liverpool's new signing, who has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water.
As a big-name attraction, Suarez's absence won't have pleased either his manager, or the marketing men struggling to shift tickets, but perhaps it's a blessing for an experimental Ireland side who have plenty to worry about this evening.