Uruguay coach laments Lugano absence

MONTEVIDEO - The absence of firebrand defender Diego Lugano will be a major blow for Uruguay when they face Brazil in next month's World Cup qualifier, coach Oscar Tabarez said Thursday that The Fenerbahce player, a natural successor to Paolo Montero at the heart of the Uruguay defence, is suspended for the match against the five-times world champions in Montevideo on June 6. "It's not good when you don't have players available," Tabarez told reporters. "Lugano, in addition to what he always brings to the team, has leadership qualities... but, apart from lamenting his absence, we can't do anything about it." Lugano is respected in Brazil where he helped Sao Paulo win the South American Libertadores Cup in 2005. Tabarez also paid tribute to Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan, Primera Liga topscorer with 31 goals this season, and Ajax Amsterdam's Luis Suarez, second topscorer in the Dutch championship with 22. "I think it's a demonstration of how players can emerge from here, where we have so many difficulties, and, after the necessary period of adaptation, can stand out in the elite centres of world football," he said. Twice former world champions Uruguay are fifth in the 10-team South American group with 17 points from 12 games. A fifth-place finish would earn them a play off against the fourth team for CONCACAF for a place at the World Cup. The top four teams qualify directly.