Luis Suárez’s hopes of starting against England in Uruguay’s second World Cup group match become stronger each day, with the striker now doing triple shifts during training to regain full fitness.

The 27-year-old is recovering from keyhole surgery to his left knee and such has been his swift rehabilitation that he may even come into contention for Uruguay’s opening match against Costa Rica in Fortaleza at 8pm on Saturday, three hours before Roy Hodgson’s team face Italy in Manaus.

Óscar Tabárez, the Uruguay coach, may decide not to risk Suárez from the start against Costa Rica and instead introduce him as a substitute to help his preparation for their second Group D game, the meeting with England on 19 June in São Paulo.

Suárez, who looked sharp at Uruguay’s Belo Horizonte training camp, said: “The knee is getting better. I feel very good. I have to go day by day but everything is going the right way.”

The winger Cristian Rodríguez said: “He is very focused. He is working in double and triple shifts and we hope to have him with us soon.”

Tabárez added: “We have no set deadlines. I don’t know if we’ll have him for the first match, for the second, for the third. If it were up to me, Suárez would play tomorrow.”

Suárez trained separately from his team-mates, executing soft shots and easy passes with his right leg – his left was hardly used – as three members of the training staff looked on.

Uruguay reached the semi-finals in South Africa four years ago. Their goalkeeper, Fernando Muslera, who was also the No1 in 2010, insists they must focus on trying to emerge from the group and not think too far ahead.

“Because of that fourth place and the Copa America title that followed, Uruguay have generated a lot of expectation around the world, and we ourselves know it wasn’t a fluke,” he said. “The fans might feel we need to kick on and become world champions but our first objective must be getting past the group phase.

“What happened four years ago doesn’t come into it. Though everything was new for me then and though I’m going into this with a slightly different mindset, playing in a World Cup is the biggest thing you can experience as a player. You get almost as excited as you did the first time.”

With Uruguay having had South Africa, Mexico and France in their group in South Africa, Muslera believes England, Italy and Costa Rica make this one a harder proposition.

“You have to say that this is a tougher group,” he said. “Though there are no easy teams any more, which has been the case for a while, this group’s tougher than the other one because of the reputation and experience of the teams. When the draw was made, the first thing people said was: ‘We never have it easy’.”

Muslera added: “The first game is vital, though it’s true to say it’s not decisive. Costa Rica are not the underdogs in the group. They’ve got players in Europe, they’ve really come on, and they’ve been a tough nut for us to crack in the last few years.”