Uruguay kicks off its Round of 16 match against Colombia at 4pm ET/1pm PT today, with Uruguay missing its leading goalscorer and most famous footballer Luis Suarez after he was banned for the next nine international games and from all of soccer for the next four months due to biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder Tuesday.
Uruguay comes into this game not just the underdog on the field – particularly without Suarez – but the villains in the eyes of most neutrals worldwide. Talented young Southampton midfielder Gaston Ramirez tried to cover up the bite marks on Chiellini’s shoulder when the Italian pulled his shirt down to show the referee (and millions of viewers across the globe).
Manager Oscar Tabarez managed to simultaneously defend Suarez’s actions in the post-match press conference, and do the same in another briefing yesterday while criticizing the length of the ban for the third-time offender, while also questioning the integrity of “English-speaking journalists” and drawing a round of applause from Uruguayan media in the process who claim that the British media are on a witch hunt against Suarez.
It’s insane that Suarez is trying to deflect the blame for his actions on the English-speaking media. Despite clear evidence that Suarez maliciously attacked Chiellini, here’s what Suarez wrote to FIFA’s disciplinary committee:
“After the impact … I lost my balance, making my body unstable and falling on top of my opponent. At that moment I hit my face against the player, leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth.”
After reviewing the incident from 34 different camera angles, the seven-member FIFA’s disciplinary committee ruled that the bite was “deliberate, intentional and without provocation.” The ruling read. “He bit the player with the intention of wounding him or at least of destabilizing him.”
Captain Diego Lugano, who has had a great career but has barely seen the field in this tournament, was in lock step with his manager. “What incident? The footage doesn’t show anything, you can speculate from it but it’s nothing important,” he said to an English-speaking journalist. “It appears that the English press keep coming back to this situation, I can’t find any other explanation, but I am happy with yesterday’s win.”
Meanwhile, Diego Maradona thinks FIFA’s ban is too extreme and has compared it to getting sent to “Guantanamo.” You might be able to draw similarities between Maradona and Suarez, two passionate men willing to do anything for their country, even bending the rules to ensure a victory. I even thought about Maradona’s famous “hand of God” comments after hearing Suarez’s post-match comments saying, “Things happen in the box.”
These comments, not to mention Suarez’s refusal to take responsibility for his own actions, instead saying that what he did was a normal part of the game, have really alienated Uruguay as a soccer-playing nation.
And it’s no wonder that most of the world now wants Uruguay out of the tournament.
It doesn’t help matters whatsoever that Uruguay’s opponents are playing some of the best stuff in the competition, winning all three of their group matches by a combined 9 goals to 2. James Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez are a deadly duo going forward; the two of them have combined for five goals so far and one (or both) of them has scored in every game. One of the better stories of the World Cup was 43-year old reserve goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón making a cameo against Japan in the final group game; Mondragón was on Colombia’s squad for the 1992 Summer Olympics and the 1994 World Cup, and is the oldest player in this tournament. Colombia has been a joy to watch to this point and should progress today. Los Cafeteros will certainly have the support of this writer.
Additional reporting by Caitlin O’Connell.