Luis Suarez hails Spain after his Uruguay team is beaten 2-1 in Confederations Cup in Brazil
Pedro's deflected effort puts Spain ahead before Roberto Soldado doubles lead in 32nd minute
Striker Suarez reduces the deficit with a late free-kick in Group A match in Recife
Mario Balotelli gives Italy a 2-1 victory over Mexico in Group B opener in Rio earlier Sunday
The score looked close, but Spain’s domination was all too apparent as the world champions began the Confederations Cup with a 2-1 victory over Uruguay on Sunday.
The eight-nation tournament is a warm-up for next year’s World Cup in Brazil, but on this evidence Vicente del Bosque’s team will once again be favored to lift the trophy.
“It’s very difficult to generate any kind of danger when you don’t touch the ball,” said Uruguay striker Luis Suarez, who scored a superb late consolation with a curling free-kick that matched the one by Italy’s Andrea Pirlo against Mexico earlier in the day.
“Spain is the best side in the world. They are a candidate to win the World Cup,” Suarez added.
His team trailed after 20 minutes of the Group B opener in Recife when Pedro’s volley was diverted into the net by captain Diego Lugano, completely wrongfooting goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
If that effort had a slice of luck, Spain’s second in the 32nd minute was straight from the counter-attacking guidebook.
Suarez lost the ball deep inside the opposing half, and seconds later it was in the Uruguay net as striker Roberto Soldado finished off a clever pass from Cesc Fabregas which beat the offside trap.
With Spain in control, Uruguay’s frustrations grew – and the team which finished fourth at the 2010 World Cup and won the South American title the following year could have gone 3-0 down as Fabregas hit the inside of the post.
Suarez, who has been publicly courting a transfer from Liverpool to Real Madrid, showed flashes of the brilliance which made him one of the top scorers in the English Premier League last season.
His 88th-minute set-piece was too good for keeper Iker Casillas, who started the match despite being frozen out at Real in 2012-13 under the Spanish club’s former coach Jose Mourinho.
Italy joined hosts Brazil on three points in Group A after beating Mexico 2-1 at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
Veteran Juventus midfielder Pirlo celebrated his 100th international appearance with the opening goal in the 27th minute, curling a superb right-foot shot past goalkeeper Jose Corona.
Javier Hernandez leveled before halftime from the penalty spot after Andrea Barzagli brought down Giovani dos Santos, but striker Mario Balotelli showed great strength to hold off two defenders and fire a 78th-minute winner.
However, he was booked for taking his shirt off in celebration – earning a rebuke from coach Cesar Prandelli.
“Mario needs to stop showing off his muscles. With celebrations like that, he’s only going to pick up pointless yellow cards,” Prandelli said.
“As for Pirlo, I don’t have words to describe what he did today. He’s the epitome of football and an example to everyone. He deserves a big round of applause. He gave us the lead and controlled the game.”
Mexico coach Manuel de la Torre said his players had hoped to play a cautious game and wear down the four-time World Cup winners.
“But we were up against a great side who were very well organized and made the most of their individual assets. That’s what made the difference,” said De la Torre, whose team suffered a first defeat since August.