If you were watching the Uruguay versus Italy match on Tuesday night, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were watching a cheap Hollywood horror flick instead of a World Cup game. It had all the ingredients that those movies usually offer -- cheap acting, cheaper directing, a false sense of suspense and an end which is invariably comical and disastrous.
The match had pitted two former champions against each other scrambling for a place in the last 16. It could have been a classic; instead it turned out to be a horror show thanks to some un-enterprising play, some appalling decisions, and a vampire in disguise.
The first 45 minutes proved to be an absolute snooze-fest as neither side showed much urgency to venture into the opposition areas, in fear of being caught out. There were constant argie-bargies and confrontations between the two sets of players, to go with some cheap play-acting, which may have added to the comicality of the affair, but certainly not to its quality. Italy, needing only a draw to advance, were playing keep-ball while Uruguay, who needed an outright victory, were waiting for something to happen and to their credit seized the opportunity with both hands when it did.
And that 'something' did happen at the hour mark, when all of a sudden, Italy's hardworking midfielder Claudio Marchisio went all studs-up against Uruguay defender Jose Maria Gimenez. That challenge deserved nothing less than a yellow card, but the referee, Marco Antonio Rodríguez Moreno of Mexico, came out with a straight red to the shock and bewilderment of the Italians.
The decision might have come as a shock to the Italians, but given the high stakes of the game and the reputation of the referee -- he brandished 0.65 red cards per game in 79 international matches he officiated prior to this one -- a red was always on the cards.
10 against 11, and the game suddenly came to life.
However, that red card was only the precursor to the drama and comedy that unfolded 20 minutes later. Luis Suarez, the talismanic Uruguay forward, frustrated at not being able to weave his way for a goal, unabashedly lay his teeth into the shoulder of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini. Suarez, who has developed quite a reputation for biting opponents when goals do not come his way -- he chomped on PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal while playing for Ajax back in 2010 and repeated the dose against Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic while playing for Liverpool in 2013 -- lay grimacing on the ground, catching his tooth as if in frustration at not finding only skin and bones in Chiellini's shoulder.
Chiellini, having recovered from the shock, tried everything including pulling his shirt down to show the bite marks in order to convince the referee, but in vain. The referee, who is coincidentally known as 'Chiqui Dracula' across Central America -- albeit for his aquiline features and heavily greased hair -- turned a blind eye.
The incident unsettled the Italians, who had defended doggedly thus far, and within less than two minutes the Uruguayans scored and killed off the game to ensure their last 16 berth.
Unlike cheap Hollywood horror flicks which invariably find their way to the trash bins, this one had a more telling impact. Italy coach Cesare Prandelli resigned after the match, bringing an abrupt end to all the rebuilding work done in the past four years. For Suarez, news is that he might get a retrospective suspension of at least 24 international matches. But you will surely not bet against him coming back, with his fangs even sharper, will you?