World Cup Diary / Things That Go Bump in the Bite

Luis Suarez, Uruguay and that old Jedi mind trick.

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Uruguay's Luis Suarez holds his teeth during the 2014 World Cup Group D soccer match between Uruguay and Italy at the Dunas arena in Natal, June 24, 2014. Credit: Reuters
Adrian Hennigan
Adrian Hennigan

Where were we? Ah, yes, Luis Suarez. As you may have heard in passing, the Uruguayan forward is in a little bit of trouble after biting an Italian player on Tuesday night. Forced to act immediately following worldwide uproar (if only Bashar Assad had bitten somebody!), FIFA has requested to see footage of the incident and asked Suarez for his version of events before pronouncing sentence. (He has until 11 P.M. Thursday night, Israel time. FIFA has until Saturday to deliver its verdict.)

The forward’s excuse – that Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini “bumped” into him – reminds us the most inept attempt at cheating on a soccer pitch before this:

There have been two reactions to the Suarez incident. 1. What, again? 2. What are you talking about? The latter response has been the Uruguayian response, perhaps the first time an entire nation has attempted the Jedi mind trick simultaneously (“This is not the meshuggener you are looking for”).

That approach was embodied by Uruguay captain Diego Lugano. “You couldn’t have seen it because nothing happened,” was his hilarious response to journalists, while his coach, Oscar Tabarez, noted: “As we say in Uruguay, there are people hiding behind a tree waiting for someone to make a mistake.” This proved only that they have some very prosaic sayings in South America.

Now FIFA faces its toughest tournament decision ever (thank God we’ve not fallen victim to all the hyperbole). It must choose between video evidence and Montevideo evidence, and find the appropriate punishment. This being FIFA, the possible punishment is remarkably vague. (It’s like you going to court and your lawyer – we’re imagining Lionel Hutz here – telling you it’ll be anything from a suspended sentence to hanging, drawing and quartering.)

Suarez could be banned for a couple of games; he could be banned for a couple of years. It could be just international matches; it could also include domestic games. It could involve a “Hannibal Lecter mask”; it might just be a gum shield (OK, OK, we’ve been spending too much time on Twitter).

The one thing we know for sure is that Luis Suarez has anger issues. And that the ban should be for longer than the previous World Cup record of eight games. Still, it could be worse for Suarez; he could be Gary Oldman.

There were a few games on Wednesday, too. Argentina reminded the world that it cannot defend, in an entertaining 3-2 victory over Nigeria (both sides qualified). And Leo Messi reminded the world that he is quite good. His second goal, a sumptuous free kick, was one of the few times this World Cup where someone has scored direct from a free kick.

As the group stage concludes Thursday, what’s increasingly likely is that this particular World Cup will be won by the best individual, not necessarily by the best team. Are Brazil the best team? Absolutely not. Can Neymar produce moments of genius to win the tournament for them? Absolutely. Same with Messi. Same with Suarez (oops, strike that one from the records). It’s Mexico 1986 all over again.

France fielded mostly its reserves (or as they’re better known these days, Newcastle United) to secure qualification after an unconvincing performance against Ecuador (albeit one of the more entertaining 0-0s of recent times). It is joined by its neighbour, Switzerland, which dispatched Honduras 3-0 thanks to a hat-trick by the, ahem, “Alpine Messi,” Xherdan Shaqiri.

Groups G and H conclude Thursday. Pick of the games is Germany vs. United States; Low vs. Klinsmann, with both sides needing a point to qualify and eliminate Portugal and Ghana. Gentlemen, no collusion please. Otherwise, Twitter will show no mercy.

Thursday’s games:

Group G:

Germany vs. USA, 7 P.M.

Ghana vs. Portugal, 7 P.M.

Group H:

Russia vs. Algeria, 11 P.M. 

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