'Even Pele had off days' – Tabarez backs Suarez after disappointing World Cup bow

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The Barcelona striker received the backing of his coach after he missed a number of clear chances in a tense victory on Friday

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez defended Luis Suarez after the striker misfired in his side's 1-0 win over Egypt in their World Cup opener and backed him to improve as the tournament progresses.

Suarez was presented with a number of clear goalscoring opportunities as Uruguay struggled to break Egypt down in a poor game in Ekaterinburg but he failed to beat the impressive Mohamed El-Shenawy.

Tabarez refused to criticise Suarez, instead crediting the Barcelona man for his part in creating Uruguay's chances, which culminated in Jose Gimenez powering a header beyond El-Shanawy to clinch victory in the 90th minute.

"I don't discuss individual players," Tabarez told reporters. "I never point the finger at anyone. We are a group, a team as a whole. I do not agree with [criticism].

"I am never going to criticise these players, especially players who have given so much to Uruguayan football.

"I don't know what happened to [Suarez]. I will not speculate. I've seen Messi, Pele, Maradona and many others not having a good day and not playing to their full potential. This is not a sin."

Suarez, 31, scored 25 goals in 33 LaLiga appearances for Barcelona in 2017-18 and netted five times in 13 games for Uruguay in their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Tabarez said he was not concerned by signs that Suarez might have lost his form upon arriving in Russia.

"Luis Suarez, even playing not as well as he normally does, had three goalscoring opportunities," said Tabarez. "The goalkeeper saved a couple and that's to his merit.

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"In the good times, the ball always seems to go in the net. Other times, they have not so good days and the posts seem closer together. This doesn't worry me too much.

"As long as Suarez keeps trying, we know he has great potential and we are happy with that."

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