Rio De Janeiro: Uruguay star Luis Suarez faces expulsion from the World Cup for biting as FIFA confirmed it had opened disciplinary proceedings against the player on Wednesday.
Suarez, banned twice before for biting players, appeared to sink his teeth into defender Giorgio Chiellini on Tuesday during Uruguay's 1-0 win over Italy.
Here's the video footage of the incident
Uruguayan players and team officials pleaded ignorance but the incident was captured clearly on television footage, making a ban almost inevitable.
"FIFA can confirm disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the player Luis Suarez," FIFA said in a statement.
Suarez and the Uruguayan Football Association can submit evidence to investigators until 5:00pm (2100 GMT) on Thursday, FIFA added.
Suarez, who plays in the English Premier League for Liverpool, is one of the world's biggest stars, and could be banned for up to 24 games under FIFA rules.
Luis Suarez during the game against Italy. Pic/ AFP
He has already received long bans for biting during his club career as well as racially abusing Manchester United player Patrice Evra during a game in 2011.
The latest flashpoint in his chequered career occurred towards the end of Uruguay's Group D game with Italy.
Replays showed Suarez appearing to bite Chiellini's shoulder as the two players made contact in an off-the-ball incident.
Chiellini angrily remonstrated with Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez, pulling his shirt off his shoulder to show red marks on his neck.
Afterwards a disgusted Chiellini told Italian television: "He bit me, it's clear, I still have the mark."
"The referee should have blown his whistle and given him a red card," he added.
Suarez sought to play down the incident in comments to Uruguayan television, claiming Chiellini had barged him.
"There are things that happen on the pitch and you should not make such a big deal out of them," Suarez said.
The latest incident happened moments before a teammate scored the winner for Uruguay, who now advance to the next round of the tournament.
FIFA rules mean that Suarez, who plays his club football in England with Liverpool, runs the risk of a heavy punishment that could bar him from the rest of the World Cup in Brazil, just as Uruguay emerged from the group phase and reached the round of 16.
- Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez 'didn't see' bite -
Uruguay's veteran manager Oscar Tabarez pleaded ignorance of the incident.
"I didn't see it. I'd like to see the images first," he told a press conference.
Tabarez also suggested Suarez was being victimised by journalists.
"He is the preferred target for a lot of media," Tabarez said.
Pressed on the issue, a visibly irritated Tabarez refused to condemn Suarez. "This is a football World Cup, it's not about cheap morality."
Senior FIFA officials wasted no time in condemning the striker.
"There is no doubt Luis Suarez is a fantastic footballer but once again his actions have left him open to severe criticism," FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce told the BBC. "FIFA must investigate this incident very seriously and take whatever action is deemed necessary."
If found guilty by FIFA disciplinary chiefs, the incident means the end of the tournament for Suarez, lambasted during the 2010 World Cup for his goal-line handball which denied Ghana what would have been a quarter-final victory.
In November 2010 he was banned for seven matches by the Netherlands FA after biting PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal on the shoulder when he played for Ajax.
Suarez was dubbed "the Cannibal of Ajax" by Dutch media.
In April 2013, he was given a 10-match ban by the English FA after biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in a match at Anfield.
He was also banned for eight matches in 2011 for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
"This is behavior that's happened two times (before). You cannot justify it. I seriously think he needs help," said Everton manager Roberto Martinez, reflecting the shock felt through the football world and yet another Suarez transgression.
Italy, who had Claudio Marchisio sent off in the second half, join a growing number of European sides on the World Cup scrapheap after the exit of Spain, England, Croatia and Bosnia.
Evander Holyfield @holyfield
I guess any part of the body is up for eating.
Subway be like "Suarez, would you like to have some extra mayonnaise with you Chiellini?"
There's a toddler phase where kids when annoyed use their teeth as a weapon. #Suarez is still in that phase.
Hmm, wonder what everyone will ask me about at work today... #suarez
Just can't get over yesterdays incident, vinchoo chawla. #MiMarathi #Suarez
#Suarez is a great player but he's got to lay off the Italian food.
There's not too many better players in the world than #Suarez. Unfortunately he struggles being a human being!
Suarez should visit the Cape Flats... They'd remove his front teeth... For fashion and for control...
Luis #Suarez was blessed with two gifts. Superior soccer skills and a set of chompers. He's putting them both to good use. #weirdo
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