Jack: Time for Suarez to get help and Balotelli to grow up

Kristian Jack
6/24/2014 4:31:25 PM
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It had been the greatest World Cup most could ever remember.

A World Cup full of wonderful moments and wonderful matches.

Then it became the World Cup that Luis Suarez bit someone in.

Hyperbole has been destroyed in Brazil. World Cups of recent memory have tried to convince us that they have been entertaining but, in general, they were dull.

This time it seemed anyone could say anything about this World Cup and no one would say 'wait, what?'.

And then Suarez bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.

'Wait, what?'

It came just as some might have been taking a snooze.

For the first time in Brazil two games, being played out at the same time, gave us very little to enjoy.

England, whose multitude of writers on social media reminded us they were still relevant, finally put their fans out of their misery with a lifeless scoreless draw against sudden group powerhouses, Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte.

In Natal, meanwhile, Uruguay's plan was going to script. Blessed with two legitimate world class strikers, and very little else, Oscar Tabarez played it cautiously, waited for a moment or two to go his way and that's how they qualified.

Anyone willing to criticize such a tactic should remember just how they won Copa America 2011. And how they have scored in Brazil.

A penalty by Edinson Cavani, a header made by Cavani and scored by Suarez, a bullet of a shot finished by Suarez and started by the goalkeeper and now a header from a set play. Tuesday's hero, Diego Godin, is the only one anywhere close to the talent of the front pair.

Italy, meanwhile, didn't get 'The Tabarez Memo'. Needing a draw to advance they played far too close to the line of uncertainty. A line that could move with a red card, a set play goal of a poor display by their main striker. Lightning struck three times for the Italians.

Claudio Marchisio's red card was debatable but not enough to chastise the referee. The marking on the goal wasn't good enough and then there was Mario Balotelli.

The term 'world class' is thrown around far too often when describing players. It is the elite of the elite, a section reserved for the greatest players in the game today. There is nothing left after that. On Tuesday, Balotelli made a mockery of those quick to place him in that category.

On the biggest stage of all, when his country needed him he was an absolute liability, forcing his coach to remove him at half-time. The problem for Balotelli is that he has run out of his immaturity excuse.

The great footballers are gifted, of course, but also have a level of football intelligence about them, that allows games to come to them rather than trying to do it themselves.

Balotelli has misfired regularly at the top table of club football, the Champions League, and has now done the same at the top table of the international game as well. Italy came to Brazil to win the World Cup and needed their striker at the top of his game, physically and mentally. He played one good half out of five and that's not good enough.

Sure, he is not the only one to blame for their early exit.

Cesare Prandelli couldn't up the tempo and had to resign afterwards.

Andrea Pirlo, one of the greatest footballers of this era, was a shadow of his former self, joining the likes of Iker Casillas, Xavi, Diego Forlan and Steven Gerrard who have all been exposed by age at this level.

And then there is FIFA who are also to blame for this, of course. Italy became another European team humbled in the intense heat of Brazil. Asking these teams to play afternoon games, rather than evening games, has made a significant impact on the results.

Not that they care about that. Their attention now turns to the Suarez investigation and they need to get it right.

He should and will be suspended with a lengthy ban.

What happens next is even more important.

After his 10-game ban came down last April for biting Branislav Ivanovic, the Uruguyan showed a tremendous amount of remorse. How can he not have?

After all, this is clearly not a man who believes that biting an opponent is the right thing to do.

However, it is also clearly a man who is unstable on the field and needs help. Throwing the book at him, in terms of a suspension, will satisfy all of those who care about the sport.

That then leaves a man, a man who will clearly be broken by this. It is easy to feel no sympathy for him but if you think he was crushed by the Liverpool suspension wait for this one to come down.

Uruguay is a very proud footballing country and that is shown in the way they play the game. Suarez will be distraught that he has let his country down and, with it, given a poor reflection on them internationally.

As he sits out the rest of this World Cup and, subsequently, likely the 2015 Copa America he will have a lot of time on his hands to get help and become a better man.

Many hours were put in to get him to reach the level of world class as a footballer and now he must do the same to achieve that as a man.

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