|All bite on the night: Chiellini and Suarez|
THE WORLD CUP faces perhaps the greatest test in its history this week when they address the problem of Luis Suarez and his prominent teeth.
Uruguay's enormously talented striker - scorer of both goals in their epic 2-1 win over England - stands accused of a THIRD incident of biting an opponent during his nation's 1-0 win over Italy last night.
When I say "accused" the pictures are damning – and hugely damaging to the game. As I said last night after the incident, Italy weren't just beaten, they were well bitten. Afterwards the "victim" Giorgio Chiellini was rightly aggrieved, exhibiting clear tooth-marks in his left shoulder.
|The whole tooth: Suarez reacts after biting incident|
they have the courage to use video evidence against him.
“The referee saw the bite mark, too, but he did nothing about it.”
Though Uruguay are through to the knock-out stages after a result which saw Italian boss Cesare Prandelli resign, FIFA surely CANNOT allow Suarez to play any further part in the tournament.
The 27-year-old, top scorer with 31 goals in the Premier League last season and joint winner of the European golden boot with Cristiano Ronado, bravely fought back from knee surgery to play in Brazil after his deliberate hand-ball put Ghana out of the tournament in the 2010 quarter-finals.
|Muzzled: a possible solution for Suarez|
Instead, Suarez poses the toughest disciplinary conundrum in the history of the game – any game. While controversial boxer Mike Tyson chewed Evander Holyfield's ear in 1997 and South African rugby Springbok Johan Le Roux bit New Zealand's Sean Fitzpatrick in 1994, Suarez is the first sportsman to stand accused of multiple episodes of, well, let’s call it “attempted cannibalism”.
The first came on 20 November 2010, when Suárez – playing for Ajax Amsterdam - bit PSV's Otman Bakkal on the shoulder during a 0–0 draw.
Ajax suspended him for two games and fined him an undisclosed amount which the club said they would donate to a "good cause". The Dutch FA later increased the ban to seven games and Suarez was sold to Liverpool without playing another game.
The second bite occurred on 21 April 2013, in a 2–2 draw with Chelsea in a Premier League game at Anfield. Again, he clearly bit Branislav Ivanović on the shoulder. Despite Chelsea protests, Suarez stayed on the pitch and scored the injury-time equaliser.
He was banned for 10 matches with the FA – having already slapped an 8-match ban for racism on the Uruguayan in 2011 – insisting they wanted to send: "a strong message that such deplorable behaviours do not have a place in football".
|Evidence: teeth marks|
The football-speaking world remains in shock this morning. The Suarez bite quite simply over-shadowed England’s worst-ever World Cup showing – their 0-0 draw with Costa Rica left them with one point to take home on their flight of shame – and a controversial injury-time penalty which saw Greece win 2-1 and oust the Ivory Coast.
Chiellini added: “The disparity in judgment has been evident. Claudio Marchisio’s sending-off (Italy were already down to 10 men) was ridiculous but more so the fact that Suarez wasn’t sent off.
“There’s the will to protect champions but the referee should have shown him a red card.”
FIFA have announced they will be looking in to the incident and have given Uruguay today to provide mitigation against Suarez’s impending punishment.
In theory, the World Cup disciplinary panel have the power to suspend Suarez for up to two years.
Worryingly, Uruguay are in denial. Their captain Diego Lugano said: "You couldn't have seen it because nothing happened. The worst of everything is the attitude of Chiellini. As a man, he disappointed me totally."
And team-mate Diego Forlan insisted: “I didn’t see anything,” while many fans in the stadium actually missed the incident, it happened so quickly.
But the pictures can leave no question. Uruguay will complain and claim persecution of their best player, one of the finest strikers in Europe over the past 12 months.
|Judgement: How twitter views Suarez|
Media pundit and former Wales international Robbie Savage said: "It is a disgrace. Suarez should never play international football again."
Former USA goalkeeper Brad Friedel agreed: "Still can't believe what I've seen again from Suarez...needs an ENORMOUS ban from football. THIRD time now!"
Suarez must be taught a lasting lesson this time. No football in the spotlight for a year at least. Anything less than ending the World Cup for one of its most talented strikers would be seen as cowardly. Let’s see what FIFA do.
SOCCERBALLZ! my innovative football show on www.ballz.co.za with Mark Fish airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names. Ballz will also provide daily World Cup updates from next week.
You can also follow me on www.twitter.com/nealcol for all the latest sports news and read my “Neal and Pray” column every Tuesday in www.thenewage.co.za.