GLEN JOHNSON is hoping Luis Suarez will be fit for England's World Cup encounter with Uruguay, even though his Liverpool team-mate is one of the best players he has seen.
Pictures in recent days have shown the 27-year-old being carted around in a wheelchair following keyhole surgery last week to repair damage to the meniscus in his left knee.
Those images have led to fears about Suarez's participation in Brazil, and club-mates to do some investigative work as to the severity of the injury.
Jordan Henderson has spoken to his Liverpool team-mate as has Johnson, who has been texting Suarez to see whether he will be fit for the Group D clash between England and Uruguay on June 19.
"Not in those words, no," Johnson said. "But, yeah, that was the point.
"I've not seen the papers for a while so I don't know what people think the injury is but he doesn't seem to think it's too bad.
"He thinks he'll be fit. We've been talking by text.
"I certainly don't want him to be injured. You don't ever want to see your mates or team-mates injured. But if he was to miss our game and be fit for the next one..."
Suarez cleaned up at the end-of-season awards for his exquisite form at Liverpool, netting 31 goals in 33 league games after returning from suspension for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic.
His form helped the Reds go agonisingly close to a first league title since 1990 and left a huge impression on Johnson.
"He's one of the best strikers I've ever played with and I've played with a few good 'uns," he said.
"He's the sort of player who can create things out of nothing and causes everybody problems – and you've seen it just as much as I have – he's clearly not one of the players you want to play against in the World Cup. But I'd rather he be fit than injured."
This will be Johnson's third major tournament for the Three Lions and is one of the most experience heads in the squad.
The 29-year-old has more than twice as many caps as England's next most experienced defender, Phil Jagielka, and hopes to make an impact going forward as well as at the back.
Brazil is synonymous with attacking full-backs and Johnson hopes to show the home audience flashes of skill embodied by the man that lifted the World Cup for them in 2002.
"You love to watch all the attacking players but Cafu, obviously, who played in the same position, was probably best right-back there has ever been," he said.
"So it was great to see players like that. Just the way he carried himself, brilliant going forward, good on the ball and could defend very well. He had a bit of swagger and played in plenty of World Cups."
Johnson is well aware, however, that bombing up and down the flanks will be a tough ask in the changeable conditions of Brazil.
England's opening match against Italy in the heat and humidity of Manaus, deep in the Amazon, will be a huge challenge the full-back, who faced similar conditions when representing his country in Brazil aged 15.
"It was very hot but it was more relaxed because we had more breaks and had a timeout every 20 minutes," Johnson said. "It's just that humidity.
"Not so much the sun and the heat but when you can't breathe you naturally can't recover so that's why you see people getting cramp because you aren't getting oxygen in the blood.
"We actually did all right but it was tough. We won't be having breaks every 20 minutes this time."