NATAL, Brazil (AP) — Uruguay striker Luis Suarez could once again be in trouble after appearing to bite an Italian opponent Tuesday in a key World Cup qualifying game.
The incident, visible on television replays, showed Suarez apparently bite the shoulder of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini as the pair clashed in the Italian penalty area. It happened about a minute before Uruguay scored in the 81st.
Suarez was chasing the ball and was blocked by the Italy defender. He buried his mouth briefly in Chiellini’s shoulder and the Italian player fell over, apparently in pain and clutching the shoulder. Suarez reeled away holding his mouth.
Uruguay held on to beat 10-man Italy 1-0 and qualified for the knockout stages. Italy, a four-time champion, was eliminated.
It is the third biting incident involving the talented but controversial striker.
Chiellini confirmed after the game that he had been bitten.
“… not sending off Suarez (was) ridiculous. It was absolutely clear. There’s even a mark,” Chiellini said of the bite.
Suarez was banned for seven matches by the Netherlands football federation in 2010 after biting PSV Eindhoven player Otman Bakkal in a league match when he played for Ajax.
After moving to Liverpool, he bit Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in 2013 and was banned for 10 games.
Uruguay Coach Oscar Tabarez said he didn’t see the alleged bite and repeatedly declined to comment.
“If it happened the referee probably didn’t see it,” Tabarez said. He also defended his star striker, saying “Suarez, besides the mistakes he might have made, is the preferred target of certain media.”
FIFA can sanction players with bans of up to two years if its disciplinary commission decides there is a case to answer.
Chiellini did everything he could during the match to bring the alleged bite to the referee’s attention.
The Italian player protested loudly, and pulled his shirt off his shoulder to point out to the referee what appeared to be a mark, but no immediate action was taken against Suarez on the field.
In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Suarez was sent off in the quarterfinal against Ghana for handling the ball on the goal-line. He was sent off, but Uruguay won the game in a penalty shootout to reach the semifinals.
The sport’s world governing body had no immediate comment but was believed to be preparing a statement on the incident.
Earlier this year, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said video evidence “can contribute greatly to fair play, provided the sport’s disciplinary bodies are prepared to use it — and they should.”
Blatter wrote that, “if the referee does not see unsporting conduct … during the course of a match, we can come back to it later.”