NATAL, Brazil — The most ruthless soccer players often use their hands or elbows or knees to rough up opposing players. The most reckless — or dirtiest — might even use their cleats.
Then there is Luis Suarez.
Suarez, a Uruguayan striker who has emerged as one of the best players in the world over the past year, is a biter. And, it seems, a serial one.
For the third time in his career, Suarez faces potential punishment for sinking his teeth into an opponent. This time it happened at the World Cup, during Uruguay's 1-0 victory over Italy on Tuesday.
Late Tuesday, the sport's governing body, FIFA, charged Suarez with biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini, a process that could lead to a suspension. FIFA announced that its disciplinary committee had opened proceedings against Suarez hours after the end of the match.
If the panel finds Suarez guilty of assaulting an opponent, FIFA rules call for a ban of anywhere from two matches to 24 months.
FIFA asked the team to present evidence, which can include video recordings, today. A decision must be published before Saturday, when Uruguay plays Colombia in the Round of 16 in Rio de Janeiro.
In the 80th minute Tuesday, Suarez bumped Chiellini while jockeying for position in the penalty area, then dropped his head into Chiellini's left shoulder. Chiellini recoiled as both fell.
The scene was surreal: The referee — Mexican Marco Rodriguez, whose nickname is "Dracula" — did not notice and paid no mind to Chiellini's attempts to pull his collar aside to show what appeared right away to be bite marks on his left shoulder.
Moments later, Uruguay captain Diego Godin scored the only goal. The 1-0 victory eliminated Italy and made certain the Suarez incident would be an unappetizing chapter in soccer history.
Suarez has twice been disciplined for biting opponents in league games and has also been banned for making racist remarks toward an opponent.
"These are things that happen on the pitch," Suarez said, neither confirming nor denying a bite. "We were both in the area. He thrust his shoulder into me. These things happen on the pitch, and we don't have to give them so much (importance)."
Suarez, 27, should be celebrating a career year. He won the scoring title with 31 goals for Liverpool and was named English Premier League player of the year.
He tried to rebrand himself as a family man after the birth of his two children, a son and daughter.
Italian coach Cesare Prandelli, who also announced his resignation, saying that while he did not see the bite, he "did see the bite marks on Chiellini's shoulder."
"It's a shame," Prandelli said. "It's a real shame."
COSTA RICA 0, ENGLAND 0: Costa Rica finished first in perhaps the toughest group with a tie against England's backups in Belo Horizonte. It needed only a draw to top Group D and played that way, up in a defensive 5-3-2 formation. England had been eliminated.
"Some people didn't believe this was possible," Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said through a translator. "It makes me feel proud, and our players deserve recognition. We will keep this style and philosophy so people don't say this is just luck."
GREECE 2, IVORY COAST 1: Georgios Samaras scored an injury-time penalty to put Greece into the second round in Fortaleza. Samaras was adjudged to have been brought down by substitute Giovanni Sio, and Samaras slotted in the spot kick as the Greeks advanced for the first time. "This means so much to me, to us. … Tonight we had energy," Samaras said, dedicating the win to Greeks suffering through financial crisis.
COLOMBIA 4, JAPAN 1: Substitute James Rodriguez scored a brilliant goal and set up two for Jackson Martinez in Cuiaba as Colombia finished Group C with a perfect record. The Colombians started with a virtual second-string lineup but went in front when Juan Cuadrado, one of the few regular starters, drilled in a 17th-minute penalty.