Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Uruguay has attracted plenty of attention at the 2014 World Cup, and not always for the right reasons, but the team will attempt to put its distractions aside against an impressive Colombia outfit at the Maracana on Saturday in the round of 16.
Uruguay forward Luis Suarez has been a lightning rod for attention in Brazil, first sitting out his team's 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica after knee surgery, and then making a triumphant return against England that saw him score twice in a 2-1 Uruguay win.
But the Liverpool striker stunned the soccer world by biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in the second half of Uruguay's 1-0 win in the group-stage finale to book a place in the second round.
Suarez was not punished on the field, but FIFA's Disciplinary Committee came down hard on him after reviewing the incident, banning Suarez for nine international matches and from all football-related activity for four months.
The loss of Suarez will put added pressure on forward Edinson Cavani, whose only goal so far in the tournament was a penalty kick in the opening match.
Veteran Diego Forlan is expected to come in for Suarez, but this team has so far looked like a much different side with Suarez in the lineup than without him.
Uruguay needed a win over Italy in its final Group D match to advance, and it wasn't Suarez who provided the difference, rather it was defender Diego Godin.
The Atletico Madrid man scored the goal that clinched La Liga for his side in the final game of the season in May, while he also put Atletico ahead with a goal in the Champions League final.
And he popped up once again to head home the winning goal against Italy in the final 10 minutes.
"We didn't make it easy for ourselves, starting the way we did, and it was a miracle that we pulled it off in the end," Godin said of his team finally securing a place in the knockout round. "Now we can start thinking about the last 16, but no further. We respect everyone but fear no one."
Godin will need to be on top of his game defensively if Uruguay is to reach the quarterfinals because his team is coming up against a Colombia side that has been one of the most impressive at the tournament so far.
The Colombians won all three of their group-stage matches by a combined score of 9-2, with midfielder James Rodriguez turning in an especially impressive performance.
The 22-year-old Monaco man has netted three goals with three assists so far, and along with Juan Cuadrado, Teofilo Gutierrez and Jackson Martinez, Godin and Uruguay will have their hands full.
Colombia has also enjoyed some incredibly vocal support from its fans, making its three group matches feel like home games according to 21-year-old midfielder Juan Quintero.
"It's like we're playing in Barranquilla," Quintero said of the support Colombia has received. "The fans are 100 percent behind us and that makes us feel great. We're playing for our people and we want to make them as happy as we can."
A win over Uruguay on Saturday would no doubt please Colombian supporters, especially since it would mark the first time that Colombia has ever advanced to the quarterfinals at a World Cup.