Why Spain must fear the lollipop

Chupete. Paquirrín. Call him what you like. Because no matter how you label Humberto Suazo, he will be the name on Spanish lips this time next month.

The Chilean striker was the top goalscorer in South American qualification for the forthcoming World Cup, scoring ten goals to fire Marcelo Bielsa’s side to South Africa. And in the Loftus Versveld Stadium in Pretoria, he will be aiming to make life difficult for the country he has called home for the last six months.

There is one simple reason why Suazo and his team-mates will potentially have the opportunity to complicate matters for the Spaniards following their final group H game at the end of June.

Qualifying in second place leads to a showdown with the winners of group G in the second round – and that is likely to mean facing Brazil. With Honduras and Switzerland completing the European champions’ group, the Chileans should be within at least two points of Vicente del Bosque’s team by the time they meet.

While Spain will want to avoid such an early encounter against the Brazilians, Chile have more reason than most to be confident about their own chances against Kaka and co. Suazo scored twice when they ran Brazil close away from home in September last year and Chile ended qualification just a point behind Dunga’s side.

The Monterrey striker spent the second half of the last campaign on loan at Zaragoza and scored six goals in seventeen appearances to lift Los Blanquillos away from the trap door. It doesn’t sound like a huge amount, but those half-dozen goals were the difference between salvation and relegation for Zaragoza.

Suazo scored crucial first-half equalisers against both Valladolid, who ended the season in the bottom three, and Champions League-chasing Mallorca. He also scored both goals in Zaragoza’s fine 2-0 win at European qualifiers Getafe, punishing first a weak backpass and then poor marking from a set piece.

Zaragoza have, however, been unable to agree a deal with Monterrey to bring Suazo to the club on a permanent basis. This is no real surprise with the World Cup on the horizon. The Mexicans will want their star Chilean striker to shine in South Africa, bumping up his price tag and thus ensuring plenty of pesos for the club when he moves on.

At the moment, the chief interest in Suazo appears to be coming from three very different clubs. He may be tempted by the opportunity to play for Boca Juniors, now managed by his former Colo Colo coach Claudio Borghi.

Alternatively, there have been suggestions that Suazo’s agent Fernando Felicevic has been hawking him to Valencia as a much-needed replacement for their recently departed strikers. There is also reported to be interest from Sunderland, although the Black Cats have been linked with a string of centre-forwards and many more are likely to appear on Steve Bruce’s radar over the summer.

Suazo is currently close to recovering from an injury to his left shoulder, which he picked up in a collision with Spanish international defender Sergio Ramos in Zaragoza’s 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid last month. The injury meant that he missed out on the chance to say goodbye to Zaragoza and to receive the thanks he deserved from their fans for his role in their survival.  For Chupete, the lollipop, revenge in South Africa would be sweet.

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David Bevan

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