Suarez skill complements Uruguay teamwork
There was a little run and a cracking left-foot shot from outside the area. There were two headers, one classic, the other bundled in after sound reading of the situation. And to complete the set there was a drilled, first-time, right-footed cross shot.
Luis Suarez showed the full range of his astonishing talent last Friday, scoring all the goals in Uruguay's 4-0 World Cup qualifier win over Chile.
It was breathtaking stuff.
My favourite was the first goal, shortly before half-time, which paved the way for a comfortable victory over dangerous opponents.
Firstly, I liked it because it highlighted how a game can be a process. Chile defender Waldo Ponce stood off Suarez, giving him room for the shot. But Suarez had won that space on merit. Previously when Ponce had got loose, Suarez had burned past him.
It was not a risk the defender was prepared to take again, and he was entitled to believe that Suarez was too far out to score with anything but a perfect shot.
It was also an outstanding goal because of its collective context. Three of Uruguay's workmanlike midfielders played their part. Diego Perez snapped in with a typically fierce tackle. Alvaro Gonzalez played a neat first-time ball. And Egidio Arevalo Rios planted forward to Suarez in space.
None of these midfielders are stars. But Uruguay coach Oscar Washington Tabarez knows their value.
Luis Suarez's four goals against Chile took his tally to 26 in 52 appearances for Uruguay. Photo: Getty
After the game he paid tribute to his players.
"They know what we want from them," he said. "They are sufficiently humble to know their limitations, but always give their best with positive thoughts."
That opening goal, with its teamwork rounded off by individual magic, says a great deal about the recent resurgence of Uruguay.
The golden evening enjoyed by Suarez also illustrates one of football's great truths - that the stars shine most brightly when the collective balance of the team is correct.
Lose that collective balance, and even Lionel Messi goes down with the ship, as Argentina showed in a desperately disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Bolivia.
True, the hosts deserved to win. They were very unfortunate to have a goal chalked off, the referee blowing for a foul when he should have played advantage. Another was harshly disallowed. Javier Pastore rattled the post. Bolivia barely threatened - Argentina's defence had to give more evidence of its fallibility to hand them a goal.
It was at the other end, though, that Argentina fell so short of their potential. There was no sense of a coherent collective idea. Messi started off wide on the right, with Pastore wide on the left - miles apart, when they should surely have been closer to each other in order to combine.
With the pair of them plus Ricky Alvarez, there was a surfeit of players wanting the ball to feet. Throw in Argentina's glaring lack of attacking full-backs, and all the play was taking place in front of the Bolivia defence.
Centre forward Gonzalo Higuain offered little with his back to goal, and Argentina's presence in the penalty area was poor. Some of these problems were addressed by substitute Ezequiel Lavezzi, who came on to score an almost instant equaliser.
But instead of surging on to win the game Argentina spluttered, and Messi even seemed to go missing in the closing stages. They gave all the signs of a team who do not really believe in what they are doing.
Called in after the Copa America with little time to prepare a side, coach Alejandro Sabella is having a hard time. It is understandable. He has much, much more experience as an assistant than as coach, and he inherited a squad overloaded with options in some positions, but with the cupboard bare in others.
And that hot seat is about to get hotter. On Tuesday, Argentina travel to take on Colombia in the sweltering Caribbean port of Barranquilla, the kind of place where you work up a sweat sipping a fruit juice in the shade.
Other than Uruguay, Colombia are the only unbeaten side in this campaign - though they came away frustrated from Friday's game after gifting Venezuela a late equaliser. There are promising signs, though, especially in the development of young left-footed midfielder James Rodriguez, who for the second game running gave evidence that he is a special talent.
Colombia are dangerous, but perhaps Argentina might like the fact that this will be a vastly different game from the glorified attack-against-defence in the Bolivia game. With the hosts pushing forward, Messi will certainly hope to find some space.
He may well be pleased that Colombian centre-back Luis Amaranto Perea misses the game through suspension. Perea was badly at fault for Venezuela's goal on Friday, but his sense of covering would be useful against Messi's incisive dribbles.
Possible replacements Arquivaldo Mosquera and Alexis Henriquez are both tall and ponderous. The other centre-back, captain Mario Yepes, is an elegantly talented defender. But he is nearly 36, and if Messi gets a run at him, his tendency to go to ground could be exposed.
Much, then, may well depend on the quality of protection given to the Colombian defence. The two sides met in July in the Copa America, where in its own way one of the highlights of the competition was the duel between Messi and Carlos Sanchez, Colombia's midfield marker.
There was no doubt about the winner. Sanchez doggedly won the day, and Colombia deserved better than a goalless draw.
That was on a freezing night in Santa Fe. But Sanchez will not be there on a boiling afternoon in Barranquilla. Injury has forced him out. Can Messi take advantage and rise to the occasion? He is Argentina's captain, and his team-mates will be looking to him for leadership.
Can he do it without the kind of back-up he gets at Barcelona - or even the unselfish platform given to Suarez by the Uruguayan midfield?
Comments on the piece welcome below. Questions on South American football can be emailed to email@example.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.
From last week's postbag;
Q) I would really like your opinion on Nicolas Lodeiro's career so far. At the last World Cup it seemed he was Uruguay's 'wonderkid' and a symbol of the future, and even the silly red card he received in his nation's first game against France didn't seem to change this status much. Before the ill-timed dismissal he did show signs of being a quality young player, but recently I've seen he hasn't been appearing for his club Ajax. How much of this is genuinely down to injury and bad fortune, and how much (if any) is down to the player himself?
A) It's been an up and down time. In 2009 everything he touched turned to gold - was great at Under-20 level, superb in the Libertadores when he was a vital part of the first Uruguayan club to reach the semi-finals in 20 years, and showed real promise when pitched straight into the senior Uruguay side for the World Cup play-off v Costa Rica.
Then comes the move to Ajax, early lack of opportunity, the red card and then serious injury in the World Cup followed by more injury. There's physical damage, but psychological also. He has to adapt to the truth that things are not always going to go as smoothly as they did in 2009.
I think he's coming out the other side now. He scored for Ajax recently in the Champions League, and is still part of the Uruguay squad, though he has slipped behind Gaston Ramirez (who played in place of the injured Diego Forlan on Friday) in the pecking order.