RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Soccer's governing body FIFA has not yet decided whether to expel Uruguay striker Luis Suarez from the World Cup for biting an opponent with deliberations set to continue on Thursday.
Uruguay FA president Wilmar Valdez told reporters in Rio de Janeiro that FIFA's disciplinary committee had not reached a decision on the case at a meeting on Wednesday and would continue deliberations on Thursday.
The incident in Uruguay's 1-0 victory over Italy in Natal on Tuesday has brought the ugly side of the game to the fore, marring a tournament that has been widely praised for its attacking football and major upsets.
Suarez's lawyer, Alejandro Balbi, flew to Rio de Janeiro with Uruguay FA chief Wilmar Valdez to lay out the player's defense, although the consensus among those who have seen replays of the incident is that the forward's future at the tournament is in serious jeopardy.
The disciplinary committee must rule on whether or not Suarez is guilty. Uruguay has up to four more games to play in Brazil, and any ban would probably rule the player out of the finals.
Balbi, Suarez's team and the Uruguayan public generally believe that the forward has been unfairly singled out in what they call a "manhunt" against a player whose chequered career has seen him banned twice before for biting.
"We don't have any doubts that this has happened because it's Suarez and secondly because Italy was eliminated," said Balbi, who is also a Uruguay FA board member, before he left for Brazil. "There's a lot of pressure from England and Italy."
Uruguay defender Diego Lugano said the incident had been blown out of proportion, and that other potentially more dangerous fouls had been committed in other games.
"Football's like that," he told reporters.
"It's passion, it's contact, and you should have a bit more balance and justice when talking about different incidents, because if not it looks like you only want to take aim at one player or team and it seems on purpose."
The incident in question came 10 minutes from time in Uruguay's Group D game against Italy, when television footage showed Suarez's mouth come down on the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, who has accused him of biting.
The Italians were still complaining when Uruguay's Diego Godin scored with an 81st-minute header to secure a win that sent the South Americans through to the last 16 and eliminated four-times champions Italy from the tournament.
Chiellini pulled down his shirt, and Reuters photographs showed what looked like bite marks on his shoulder.
Suarez has denied biting.
"Those are situations that happen on the pitch. We were both just there inside the area. He shoved me with his shoulder, and my eye got left like that also," he said on Tuesday, in reference to Chiellini's marks.
Balbi was asked by Reuters in Rio whether the contact was intentional.
"No," he replied. "Suarez's mouth hit against the Italian player's shoulder."
Valdez added: "If FIFA acts the way that it should, being objective, according to the proof that there is, he really should not be sanctioned ... Luis is a football player that is important to the whole world, not just Uruguay."
The referee did not spot the incident during the match, but FIFA's rules allow the use of video or "any other evidence" to punish players retrospectively.
FIFA's disciplinary code sets a maximum ban of 24 matches or two years, but the longest suspension FIFA has imposed for an offence at a World Cup was eight games on Italy's Mauro Tassotti for breaking the nose of Spain's Luis Enrique in 1994.