Uruguay's Suarez stance hurt their chances at World Cup
ROUND OF 16
COLOMBIA v URUGUAY
(Tomorrow, 4am, SingTel mio TV Ch 141 & StarHub Ch 223)
Tragedy descended into farce yesterday. The pantomime villains are peeking around the curtain and shouting "boo" at every opportunity.
The hissing, jeering, disbelieving world is this close to throwing rancid tomatoes at the unrepentant Uruguayans.
Luis Suarez lost the PR battle, but his countrymen are utterly determined to also lose the war.
Uruguayans are clambering over their striker's rotting football carcass to take a stand, mount a defence and generally share their unwanted opinions with an exasperated audience.
"Everyone knows what they've done to Luis. They wanted him out of the World Cup. Perfect, they did it. They chucked him out of there like a dog."
Those were the words of Lila Piriz Da Rosa, Suarez's grandmother.
The dog analogy was unfortunately fitting, but the reluctance to acknowledge a reprehensible act is proving contagious among the Uruguayans here.
Where there must be remorse, there is only rage. They are raging against the perceived Fifa machine and the alleged prejudice against South Americans.
Uruguay's Sports Minister Liliam Kechichian and Uruguay Football Association president Wilmar Valdez have both savaged the "disproportionate" punishment and the "excessive" ban.
But the only excess is coming from within. Even South Americans are embarrassed by incessant claims of injustice from within the Uruguay camp.
Any remaining sympathy for La Albiceleste has dwindled. Any feeling of injustice has been replaced by indignation. The Uruguayans' unedifying behaviour is rapidly losing hearts and minds here.
Gaston Ramirez's ludicrous claims yesterday that Suarez's bite had been blown out of proportion compared to other violent acts of a similar magnitude defied both belief and common sense.
The accomplished, creative midfielder is a potential replacement for Suarez against Colombia tomorrow morning (Singapore time), but he's not a popular character in Rio right now.
He may not be when he returns to Southampton either. Memories are long.
Until two days ago, Oscar Tabarez epitomised the respect, dignity and tactical adventure that have illuminated the World Cup.
His deployment of Nicolas Lodeiro and Edinson Cavani against England was masterful, his 5-3-2 formation against the confused Italians particularly astute.
The 67-year-old was appropriately placed to draw a line in the sand, but he circled the wagons instead.
He alleged prejudice against his beleaguered striker, claiming that Suarez was "the target of certain sections of the press."
No one in the press conference had ever bitten anyone before, but they bit down hard on Tabarez's comments.
He had the chance to deflate global anger and allow the unbearable tension to slowly dissipate. But he played Dan Brown rather than diligent peacekeeper, fully conceding the moral high ground.
The Maracana expects a full house for the South American duel but few beyond the pale blue jerseys will be rooting for anything other than a victory for the Colombians, who have dazzled Brazil with their hip-swinging insouciance.
That's unfortunate because there has been much to admire about Uruguay beyond their fractured sense of morality.
Diego Godin's defensive fortitude, combined with his late winner against Italy, neatly defined the leadership qualities lacking in the English and Italian camps in Group D.
He'll need them now. Colombia scored nine goals on their way to topping Group C.
Fernando Muslera has proven dependable and Arevalo Rios' heavy industry allowed the favoured three to roam.
But Tabarez's greatest concern, once he stops defending Suarez, is working out how to replace him.
Ramirez offers an additional creative outlet, but not the same attacking thrust. If he slipped in behind, Cavani will be forced to go it alone which has not been his favoured position at this World Cup.
When he roamed, he reigned. His instinctive, overlapping interplay with Suarez killed off England.
Diego Forlan is Tabarez's other possibility. The polar opposite of Suarez, the Cerezo Osaka striker cuts an unassuming, calming presence. A leader in the dressing room, his long career commands the respect of his contemporaries. When Forlan talks, his teammates listen.
The Colombians also demonstrated against Ivory Coast and Japan that behind their sashaying centre-forwards lies a defence less than impregnable. The limited Japanese certainly burrowed away at obvious holes.
But Forlan is 35. The pragmatic veteran had accepted that his role in Brazil was to play back-up man to Suarez. Instead he has been forced to back the wronged man.
When Suarez bit Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini, he left a bigger hole in his squad's psyche. They are scrambling to bridge the chasm left by the buck-toothed offender. They are compelled to absorb the sins of an unapologetic recalcitrant.
Ever since Suarez opened his mouth, his teammates have unwisely stepped forward to put a foot in theirs.
Colombia will own the moral majority within the Maracana.
Thanks to the myopic defence of their Liverpool striker, the Uruguayans will walk alone in Rio.