Chiquidrácula. Little Dracula. His parents did not name him that but the for Marco Rodriguez, the referee in yesterday’s Uruguay versus Italy match, that is his nickname. You couldn’t make it up. Well, given that nugget was sourced from Wiki, it probably has been but nonetheless it weaves wonderfully into the narrative surrounding Luis Suarez’s latest indiscretion.
For the third time in his career – that we know about – the Uruguayan sank his teeth into an opponent. Previously this has been the precursor to a move to a new club and his words after the England match suggested the player was executing an exit strategy. If this was part of the plan, it is one of the most cynical ever adopted. Suarez’s rationale mat include that he is being subjected to a witch-hunt orchestrated by the English media, a ploy that would no doubt bring sympathy and knowing nods from FIFA suits. John W Henry may find Arsenal smoking cigars as he sees his dreams of a £100m fee burning in front of his eyes. A player capable of engineering interest from a domestic rival will have no problem forcing a move to a grander European stage.
It adds to the notoriety gained from the last World Cup when his country prospered following his handball against Ghana. The question is what punishment FIFA will hand out? Already legal minds have suggested that anything more than a three game ban offers Suarez and Uruguay the opportunity to appeals to higher FIFA chambers and the CAS, effectively staying his sentence until hearings take place. It would in all likelihood, leave the player available for selection for the remainder of Uruguay’s involvement in the tournament.
The repetitive nature of the crime fuels the expectation of a lengthy ban but it is also the factor that they will choose to ignore. The incident has tarnished their blue riband event and whilst there may exist a desire on their part to be seen as the guardians of the game, they also want this to be dealt with quickly and swept under the carpet. It’s going to have to be a big carpet.
It is why they will distance themselves from previous incidents, citing suspensions served as suitable demonstrations of justice in those respects. The resulting sentence will exclude him from all bar the final, effectively the rest of the tournament as the draw lends itself to Uruguay meeting Brazil in the quarter-final if they beat Colombia.
It’s a pointless exercise to question FIFAs grasp of the wider moralities involved. They have shown no desire to deal with them in other matters and it would be breathtaking hypocrisy on their part to assume the right to judge in this matter beyond the sphere of international football. I hope they are that shameless and impose a ban from the game for six months – an entirely arbitrary value I hasten to add – a sentence that has a severe enough punishment that provokes he player into some realisation of boundaries. It’s an uncomfortable moment even for a sport which has no compunction in encouraging its participants to win at all costs.
The match itself had already turned with Marchisio’s dismissal, the sin more acceptable to the game but underlining the extent of footballs issues, the blurred boundaries which surround the sport. Godin’s header put the Uruguayans into a meeting with the impressive Colombians who routed Japan to top their group with maximum points. That is the tempering factor in the instance; it was probably the weakest quartet which perhaps means Colombia are ‘undervalued’ members of the last sixteen. If they lose, the cynicism holds true but with their opponents pushed into the role of pantomime villains, the world will feel righteously joyful if the Colombians progress to the last eight.
The second match in Group C continued the controversy. A last-minute penalty, contentious until TV replays showed the briefest brush causing Samoras’ heels to meet with the inevitable ensuing tumble to the floor. Over the ninety minutes it’s hard to argue with the Greeks victory, they were more threatening than Ivory Coast, striking the woodwork three times and punishing the Africans for lax defending. Serge Aurier takes some responsibility for the winner, caught out of position and slow to recover. Many will cross him off their summer shopping list for such frivolity; others of us think it a trait which emphasises his Arsenal credentials. We shall see if Arsène agrees.
England meanwhile left in a suitable manner, quietly and not troubling anyone. Costa Rica were not particularly bothered and if Joel Campbell felt any strong desire to prove his worth to a nation which may host his football, he did a pretty good job of hiding it. Roy Hodgson faces more criticism from The Heil in another relentless pursuit of an England manager. No practical solutions are ever offered, that requires original thought of a positive nature something beyond the hacks in their employ.
The future begins now for the squad and whilst I understand Hodgson’s desire for a seamless transition, it is time to build for Euro2016 and let the players who will feature, gain international experience. It means the likes of Gerrard and Lampard are bid farewell. If the FA feel so inclined, let them bow out in the next friendly. Give those who wish to pay homage the opportunity to do so. That would be a change in behaviour from English footballs HQ, previously players were cast aside with nary a phone call to think them for their services.
For Arsenal’s contingent, it was a personally disappointing trip to South America. Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain went into the tournament short of match fitness, for the latter it got worse with injury in the warm-up matches. How highly Hodgson rates him is shown by his continued inclusion in the squad, the hope that his fitness would be proven in time for crucial games. Events proved otherwise and focus now turns to getting the player fit for next season. Reports suggest he will be, the same for Wilshere. Incredibly, some continue to claim he is only in the Arsenal team because he is English, before returning to the task of digging for their pot of gold where the Leprechaun told them the rainbow ended.
On the transfer front, Alexis Sanchez is the latest forward linked with the club. If he is signed, does this mean Campbell’s future is away from the club? That’s a very big ‘IF’, I hasten to add. It seems as unlikely as Balotelli joining but with the likes of Italy, Ivory Coast and Spain exiting the tournament, transfer opportunities increase as players become available for talks. If Arsène can drag himself away from his scouting mission in Brazil. As if anyone believes he really is there just as a French TV pundit…