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Soccer-Suarez "bite" accusation overshadows World Cup

Reuters

By Mike Collett-White

SAO PAULO, June 24 (Reuters) - Uruguay overcame 10-man Italy in their winner-takes-all World Cup Group D clash on Tuesday, but the game was overshadowed by what Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini said was a bite by striker Luis Suarez that went unnoticed by officials.

The Uruguay forward, who has twice been banned from club soccer for biting, could face a harsh penalty if found guilty by FIFA.

"We are awaiting the official match reports and will gather all the necessary elements in order to evaluate the matter," FIFA said in a statement.

With Costa Rica qualifying top of Group D after a 0-0 draw with England in the other game in Belo Horizonte, four-time former champions Italy are out and Uruguay progress.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli offered his resignation.

"At the end of the match I spoke to the president of the federation," he told reporters. "I have told them I am going to resign from my position. When there is failure, the person in charge must take responsibility."

Italy looked to be heading for the battling draw they needed to go through when referee Marco Rodriguez sent off midfielder Claudio Marchisio with a harsh straight red card in the 59th minute for a challenge on Egidio Arevalo Rios.

With 10 minutes to go, Suarez clashed with Chiellini in Italy's penalty area, and the Italians were still complaining when Uruguay captain Diego Godin scored a fortuitous 81st-minute winner that flew in off his shoulder.

A furious Chiellini pulled down his shirt to show a mark to the referee, and Reuters photographs from the game show what appeared to be bite marks on his shoulder.

"It was ridiculous not to send Suarez off," Chiellini told Rai TV. "It is clear-cut and then there was the obvious dive afterwards, because he knew very well that he did something that he shouldn't have done."

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said he did not see the incident, but feared that Suarez, who missed Uruguay's 2010 World Cup semi-final after being sent off for a handball on the line that denied Ghana what would have been a matchwinning goal, was being unfairly singled out.

"There seems there is animosity against this football player," he told reporters. "He just came out of a difficult moment and he has been penalized. There are people hiding behind the tree waiting for something to happen."

REFEREE "RUINED" GAME

Prandelli believed the game turned on the sending off.

"It's ridiculous to be down to 10 men in a game like this," he said. "There weren't any bad fouls or anything that merited a sending off. You can't affect a game like that. The referee ruined the game."

The other Group D game was short on tension, and a goalless draw condemned England, who were out before kickoff, to their worst World Cup showing since 1958 while ensuring that Costa Rica qualified in first place.

Costa Rica face the runners-up of Group C - likely to be one of Ivory Coast, Japan or Greece - in the last 16.

In the later games on Tuesday, Group C leaders Colombia, another Latin American side challenging the region's traditional powers, have qualified for the last 16 with six points but will look to clinch top spot when they take on Japan, who have one point, in Cuiaba.

The Japanese could still qualify with a win but Ivory Coast, currently second on three points, are the favourites before they face Greece, who have one point, in Fortaleza. The Group C winners will face Uruguay in the last 16.

Off the pitch, there were royal Belgian blushes when video footage appeared of Queen Mathilde congratulating Romelu Lukaku for scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Russia on Sunday, when the actual goalscorer was 19-year-old Divock Origi.

And in a reminder of soccer's financial power, German sportswear firm Adidas said it expected to sell more than eight million jerseys of the nine national sides it is sponsoring at the World Cup, including over two million of the Germany shirt.

That demand would help it stay ahead of its rival Nike in terms of soccer sales, with a target of $2.72 billion in 2014 against Nike's estimated $2.0 billion. (Reporting by Mike Collett-White; editing by Justin Palmer)

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