The Brazilian miracle had captivated millions of soccer fans for the past 13 days like a perfectly scripted serial.

Newly finished stadiums haven't collapsed. Transportation systems haven't ground to a halt. Protests have been minimal. Contrary to predictions, the 2014 World Cup has been a resounding success.

Then Luis Suarez lowered his head Tuesday.

The "Cannibal of Ajax" bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in the 80th minute of Uruguay's dramatic 1-0 victory in Natal, Brazil, sending reverberations around the world.

The volatile Uruguayan striker is soccer's biggest villain, having been suspended for twice biting players since 2010, and for using a racial slur against yet another opponent. A newspaper in Holland gave him the "cannibal" moniker after the first biting incident while he played for the Dutch side Ajax.

NATAL, BRAZIL - JUNE 24:  Giorgio Chiellini of Italy pulls down his shirt after a clash with Luis Suarez of Uruguay (not pictured) as Gaston Ramirez of
NATAL, BRAZIL - JUNE 24: Giorgio Chiellini of Italy pulls down his shirt after a clash with Luis Suarez of Uruguay (not pictured) as Gaston Ramirez of Uruguay looks on during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Italy and Uruguay at Estadio das Dunas on June 24, 2014 in Natal, Brazil. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images) ( Julian Finney )

As a result, it was difficult to give Suarez, 27, the benefit of doubt Tuesday when he put his face into Chiellini's left shoulder.

Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez was not in position to see the play clearly enough to send the Liverpool striker off. But Chiellini pleaded his case by pulling down his jersey to reveal bite marks.

Early Wednesday in Brazil, FIFA officials announced they had opened a proceeding against Suarez, who could be banned for a minimum of two games and up to two years. Some fans would welcome a lifetime ban.

With his reputation Suarez should not have put his head into Chiellini's body the way he did. Also, in a bit of play-acting that puts a stain on soccer, Suarez immediately fell to the ground holding his face after his opponent crumpled to the pitch.


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Suarez wasn't hurt -- other than perhaps realizing the wrath he was about to bring on himself and his sport.

In a World Cup where everything had been going so smoothly, matters unraveled in an instant.

Much of the chatter Tuesday focused on Suarez' teeth and not the splendor on the grass.

Not on Uruguay captain Diego Godin, whose header about a minute after the Suarez incident sent la Celeste into the round of 16.

Last month, Godin converted on a header on the final day of the Spanish league to give Atletico Madrid the title over mighty Barcelona.

Now his goal sent four-time champion Italy packing with fellow European powers England and Spain in tow. It was momentous for theatrical Italy, as coach Cesare Prandelli offered his resignation.

A few hours later, Greece scored with a stoppage time penalty kick to defeat the Ivory Coast and reach the knockout stage for the first time in history.

The Greeks' victory underscored just how dramatic the World Cup has been the past two weeks. U.S. fans still are trying to bring down heart rates after Sunday's thrilling 2-2 draw in which Portugal scored the latest regulation-time goal in history.

The tension is building toward Thursday when the United States plays Germany while Ghana faces Portugal in Group G games that will decide who advances. It is a dream scenario for soccer officials. Their showcase event has enjoyed a flurry of goals and has attracted record-breaking audiences.

But now FIFA officials must protect all of that from a petulant player who allegedly once headbutted a referee in a youth game. Montevideo's El Observador newspaper called the criticism of Suarez a campaign ignited by the English-speaking media "with some Italians." Suarez dismissed the incident as a typical collision in the penalty area. He had the audacity to complain about taking a blow to the eye on the play.

It's up to FIFA, sometimes a feckless bunch, to see through the guise. To preserve any integrity it must ban Suarez from the rest of the tournament if officials have definitive proof of another biting episode.

Suarez is one of the world's biggest soccer stars. But the World Cup is better off without him.

  • Uruguay's win overshadowed by biting controversy. PAGE 3

  • Other memorable biting incidents in sports history. PAGE 3

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