Uruguay fans react during the live broadcasting of the FIFA World Cup Round of 16 match against Colombia in Montevideo, on June 28, 2014Uruguay fans react during the live broadcasting of the FIFA World Cup Round of 16 match against Colombia in Montevideo, on June 28, 2014 (AFP Photo/Miguel Rojo)
Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said that his squad had not wasted energy defending disgraced striker Luis Suarez after they were knocked out of the World Cup by Colombia.
Suarez was given a nine-game international ban by FIFA on Thursday for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini, meaning that he missed his side's 2-0 loss to Colombia in the last 16 on Saturday.
Captain Diego Lugano hit out at journalists for asking questions about Suarez earlier this week and Tabarez used his pre-game press conference to read out a statement defending his wayward star.
However, he said that the Suarez affair had had no influence on his side's display against Colombia at the Maracana, where they were beaten by two James Rodriguez goals.
"I don't know what energy we could have lost," Tabarez told journalists.
"We simply accepted that he was suspended. We criticised the excessive nature of the sanction, which was very subjective, it's true, but it's the feeling of an entire people who follow football.
"Just like I said about James Rodriguez, World Cups, international matches and the whole show of football need players with Suarez's qualities.
"We tried to defend him, as should be done. He's part of our group and pursuing the same objectives, but when he was no longer able to be with us, that was the end of that."
The Uruguayan Football Association released an image prior to kick-off that showed Uruguay's players posing with Suarez's number nine jersey in the Maracana changing room.
But Tabarez said that rather than distracting the squad, their support for Suarez had actually generated "strength and willingness" to compete on the pitch.
- 'Difficult moments' -
"We had the energy and we showed that today (Saturday)," he said.
"Maybe not so much in terms of being able to overcome the other team, but that's the end of it."
In a final dig at the journalists who Tabarez blames for fanning the flames of controversy around the incident, the Uruguay coach added: "He's a football player, he was suspended, and the rest is private.
"It's to be kept within the privacy of the group and I don't want to make it any bigger, particularly with statements to people who've been after him for a long time."
Tabarez led Uruguay to the World Cup semi-finals in 2010 before overseeing their victory at the 2011 Copa America, but despite their last-16 exit, he said that they could draw positives from their performances in Brazil.
"After the (3-1) defeat against Costa Rica, beating England and Italy was special, not just for the result, but for overcoming the difficulties that we had," he said.
"We beat difficult teams and overcame statistics about not beating European teams that are always rubbed in our faces.
"As we've done many times, we've come through difficult moments. At times we have to lose, as was the case today, but we never felt that we were one of the favourites.
"Another positive is that the objective of being a difficult team to face is something we lived up to, even today.
"The only negative is not being able to achieve the dream of moving a bit further forward."