Uruguay's Suarez plays down biting incident

00:06, Jun 25 2014
Costa Rica
Costa Rica's Joel Campbell celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Uruguay during their Group D match.
Costa Rica
Costa Rica's Joel Campbell scores a goal during his sides Group D soccer match against Uruguay.
Costa Rica
A fan of Costa Rica celebrates their win over Uruguay.
Costa Rica
Costa Rica's Joel Campbell is fouled by Uruguay's Maximiliano Pereira, who was issued a red card for the foul.
Costa Rica
Costa Rica's Marco Urena shoots to score past Uruguay's Fernando Muslera during their Group D match.
Costa Rica
A general view of the arena during theGroup D match between Uruguay and Costa Rica at Castelao.
Italy v England
Mario Balotelli of Italy scores his team's second goal on a header past Gary Cahill and goalkeeper Joe Hart of England during the Group D match.
England v Italy
Daniel Sturridge of England shoots and scores his team's first goal past Salvatore Sirigu of Italy.
England v Italy
England's Wayne Rooney and Italy's Giorgio Chiellini fight for the ball.
England v Italy
England trainer Gary Lewin is stretchered off the field after a leg injury during the Group D match between England and Italy.
England v Italy
Italy's Claudio Marchisio scores past England's goalkeeper Joe Hart during their Group D soccer match.
Suarez goal
Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring a goal past England's Joe Hart.
Danny Welbeck
England's Danny Welbeck fights for the ball with Uruguay's Egidio Arevalo Rios and Uruguay's Edinson Cavani.
Wayne Rooney
England's Wayne Rooney heads the ball into the crossbar.
Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez of Uruguay shoots and scores his team's second goal during the Group D match between Uruguay and England.
Rooney goal
England's Wayne Rooney scores his team's first goal past Uruguay's goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez of Uruguay celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Group D match between Uruguay and England.
England fan
An England fan looks dejected after the team's 2-1 defeat to Uruguay.
Suarez fans
Uruguay fans celebrate with a poster of Luis Suarez after the Group D match between Uruguay and England.
Bryan Ruiz
Bryan Ruiz celebrates his first-half goal that decided Costa Rica's 1-0 victory over Italy.
Bryan Ruiz
Bryan Ruiz celebrates with a Costa Rican substitute after his goal against Italy.
Mario Balotelli
Italy's Mario Balotelli takes a shot at goal under Costa Rican pressure.
Junior Diaz and Claudio Marchisio
Italy's Claudio Marchisio checks on a prone Junior Diaz of Costa Rica.
Keylor Navas
Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas punts the ball upfield.
Ignazio Abate and Christian Bolanos
Italy's Ignazio Abate and Costa Rica's Christian Bolanos battle to control the ball.
Giancarlo Gonzalez
Giancarlo Gonzalez and Costa Rican team-mates celebrate their progression through to the second stage.
Yeltsin Tejeda and Patrick Pemberton
Yeltsin Tejeda (left) and Patrick Pemberton revel in Costa Rica's 1-0 win over Italy.
Daniel Sturridge and Keylor Navas
Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas blocks the shot of England's Daniel Sturridge.
Diego Godin
Captain Diego Godin (left) celebrates his match-winning header in Uruguay's 1-0 victory over Italy.
Uruguay players
Uruguay players celebrate, while Italy players react, after their World Cup Group D football match at the Dunas arena in Natal.
Giorgio Chiellini
Italy's Giorgio Chiellini shows his shoulder after claiming he was bitten by Uruguay's Luis Suarez.
Diego Godin
Uruguay's Diego Godin celebrates with team mate Christian Stuani (rear) after scoring a goal against Italy at the Dunas arena in Natal.
Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez of Uruguay and Giorgio Chiellini of Italy react after a clash at Estadio das Dunas in Natal, Brazil. Chiellini accused Suarez of biting him.
Maximilliano Pereira
Giorgio Chiellini of Italy challenges Maximilliano Pereira of Uruguay during their Group D match.
Gianluigi Buffon
Uruguay's Luis Suarez fights for the ball with Italy's goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon during their World Cup Group D football match at the Dunas arena in Natal.
Cristian Gamboa
Cristian Gamboa of Costa Rica challenges Luke Shaw of England during their World Cup Group D match at Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Keylor Navas
Goalkeeper Keylor Navas of Costa Rica makes a save on Daniel Sturridge of England at Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Bryan Ruiz
Bryan Ruiz of Costa Rica holds off a challenge by England's Frank Lampard during their Group D 0-0 draw in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard of England looks on after a 0-0 draw with England in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Wayne Rooney
England's Wayne Rooney (left) fights for the ball with Costa Rica's Junior Diaz during their Group D football match at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte.

Biting opponents, racist comments - all that looked to be behind Luis Suarez, as soccer's bad boy was maturing into a star for his club and country. Then, the old habit that most people leave behind in nursery school cropped up again in front of an audience of millions. 

Faced with a smothering and frustrating Italian defense in a must-win World Cup game today, the Uruguayan superstar responded with his front teeth.  

It came about the 80th minute when Suarez and Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini got tangled up in front of the Italy goal. The apparent chomp happened in an instant, but caught by television cameras, it became a worldwide sensation and could lead to Suarez being kicked out of the World Cup. 

The referee didn't see a bite, and no foul was called despite Chiellini pleading and pulling down his jersey to show a red mark on his shoulder. About a minute later, Uruguay scored the winning goal in a 1-0 game that sent Italy home.  

 Luis Suarez
FLASHPOINT: Uruguay striker Luis Suarez falls to the ground after a clash with Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay's controversial 1-0 win.

Uruguay will continue playing, but the federation that runs the World Cup will investigate and may suspend Suarez, who has twice before been disciplined for biting opponents in league games. 

Suarez didn't confirm or deny the bite, but said he was angry that Chiellini - one of the best defenders in the world and known for his physical play - had hit him in the eye during the game.  

''These are things that happen on the pitch, we were both in the area, he thrust his shoulder into me,'' Suarez said in Spanish. ''These things happen on the pitch, and we don't have to give them so much [importance].'' 

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Suarez, 27, should be celebrating the best year of his career. After asking to be sold before the season, he stayed with Liverpool, topped the goalscoring charts and was named the English Premier League's player of the year.  Now, he'll have to start rehabbing his reputation again. 

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez and Suarez's team-mates immediately defended their star. 

''I want to say that if he's attacked, as it has begun in this press conference, we'll also defend him, because this is a football World Cup, not of cheap morality,'' said Tabarez, who said he didn't see a bite. 

Suarez was suspended following biting incidents in the Netherlands in 2010 and in England in 2013. He also was suspended for racially abusing an opponent. British tabloids have teasingly called him a vampire, and social media artists have had fun manipulating his photo into images of Dracula and Hannibal Lecter. 

And he was responsible for one of the most talked-about moments of the 2010 World Cup, when he purposefully used his hand to prevent a Ghana goal near the end of the quarterfinals. Suarez received a red card and was banned for the next game, but Ghana missed the penalty kick and were eliminated.

Uruguay defender and team captain Diego Lugano suggested Suarez was a victim of his past.  

''You need to show me because I didn't see anything. Did you see it today or did you see what happened in other years?'' Lugano said. ''The worst of all was Chiellini's attitude ... as sportsmen leaving the field, crying and appealing against a rival.'' 

On the field immediately after the match, Suarez looked relieved to have pulled out the victory in the heat of this tropical coastal city. If Uruguay had lost, they would have been knocked out of the World Cup. 

After taking off his jersey, Suarez walked to a corner of the stadium, clapped and flashed his toothy smile as he waved to the thousands of Uruguay fans chanting and cheering his name.

 FIFA, soccer's world governing body, can sanction players with bans of up to two years. FIFA had no immediate comment.
 FIFA vice-president Jim Boyle said on British television that Suarez had let himself down again.  

''There is no doubt Luis Suarez is a fantastic footballer but, once again, his actions have left him open to severe criticism,'' Boyle, who is also chairman of the FIFA referees' committee, said from his home in Northern Ireland.

''FIFA must investigate the incident seriously.'' 

Chiellini said Suarez should have been kicked out of the game. 

''Not sending off Suarez [was] ridiculous,'' he said. ''It was absolutely clear. There's even a mark.'' 

Suarez's status for the World Cup had been in doubt after he had left knee surgery just a month before it started. He missed Uruguay's 3-1 opening loss to Costa Rica, but returned with a flourish to rescue Uruguay with both goals in a 2-1 win over England. 

After the victory, he claimed vengeance against some of the British media he accused of treating him badly.  
This was supposed to be the World Cup where Suarez repaired his reputation. He tried to rebrand himself as a family man after the birth of his two children, a son and daughter.

 Suarez said he regretted his previous biting incidents, telling the Mirror newspaper in London recently that he worried what his children will think. 

''That thought almost hurts me more than the actual deed. The fact, as well, that I will have to explain one day to my kids that it was me, their father,'' Suarez said.  

''That has kept me awake at night many times ... I want to be a father they can be proud of.''

AP