Soccer / Sports

Uruguay's Luis Sanchez could be suspended for bite by FIFA on Thursday

RECIFE, Brazil -- Luis Sanchez could be hit with a harsh suspension Thursday when FIFA announces the findings of its investigation into charges the Uruguay striker bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini on the left shoulder during Tuesday's World Cup game in Natal.

Moments after the incident, which took place with FIFA President Sepp Blatter looking on, Uruguay scored the game's only goal to advance to the tournament's second round while Italy was eliminated.

FIFA, world soccer's governing body, announced Wednesday that it had opened a disciplinary case against Suarez. The Uruguayan soccer federation had until 5 p.m. Wednesday, local time, to present its defense of Suarez, who has been suspended twice in his career for biting incidents in the Dutch Eredivisie and the English Premier League.

FIFA's disciplinary committee has several punishments it can choose from, ranging from a three-game suspension that would allow Suarez to return for the World Cup final should Uruguay make it that far to a maximum two-year ban that would cover all sanctioned soccer games, not just those involving the national team.

Given that Uruguay's next World Cup game is Saturday against Colombia, FIFA may opt for a shorter penalty since suspensions of fewer than three matches and not longer than two months cannot be appealed. The longest previous suspension for an on-field incident at a World Cup is eight games, levied against Italy's Mauro Tassotti after he broke the nose of a Spanish opponent during a 1994 game.

Suarez's attack was not caught by the referee, Mexican Marco Rodriguez. But FIFA rules allow the use of video or "any other evidence" to punish players after the fact. Both still and television images captured the incident as well as obvious puncture marks on Chiellini's shoulder.

FIFA has already handed out one lengthy suspension in this tournament, banning Cameroon midfielder Alex Song for three games after he was ejected from his team's game with Croatia for striking opponent Mario Mandzukic in the back with an elbow.

A harsh penalty could hurt Suarez off the field as well. Already two of his sponsors -- the online poker site 888poker and shoemaker Adidas -- have said they are reviewing their agreements with him.

For all the possible ways Thursday's Germany-U.S. game could end, this much is certain: If there's a winning team, it will have a German coach.

Juergen Klinsmann of the U.S. was born near Stuttgart and played for Germany in three World Cups, then coached the team in another. Joachim Loew, his hand-picked successor, guided the national team to the semifinals in his first trip four years ago.

And while the two remain close friends, Loew said he's approaching this game like any other.

"This is a game against another international team, just like any other game against any other international team," he said. "We have a task at hand."

Klinsmann said the two exchange regular phone calls and text messages but have stopped that in the run-up to this game.

"Once the World Cup is over, we'll be back on the phone and talk about it and see the families. They miss each other," he said. "It's more than just a working relationship. It's a very close friendship with a lot of admiration."

Thursday's game has done more than just pit friends against one another. In Klinsmann's case, it's also divided a family.

"My family will be a little bit split, the folks in Germany and my folks in the U.S. But that's just part of it," he said. "At the end of the day it's a beautiful game of football tomorrow and I hope everybody will enjoy it."

Bad weather was predicted for each of the U.S. team's first two World Cup games and it never materialized. So take Thursday's forecast, which calls for a 90 percent chance of rain in Recife just before kickoff, with a grain of salt.

The Weather Channel is also calling for a temperature of 80 degrees and Miami-like humidity of 76 percent.

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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