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WORLD CUP NOTEBOOK

Notes: Luis Suarez apologizes for biting

Uruguay's Luis Suarez was banned for four months by FIFA for biting the shoulder of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during the group stage.  REUTERS/Tony Gentile/file

FILE/TONY GENTILE/REUTERS

Uruguay's Luis Suarez was banned for four months by FIFA for biting the shoulder of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during the group stage.

After a few days of reflection, Luis Suarez acknowledged what millions saw on TV — he did bite an opponent during a game at the World Cup. In addition, he said he’s sorry about it, and promised it will never happen again.

Ending a unified protest in Uruguay by everyone from Suarez to teammates, fans, and even the country’s president that the star striker had done nothing wrong, the Liverpool player on Monday offered an apology to Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini.

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‘‘I deeply regret what occurred,’’ Suarez said in a statement posted on Twitter. ‘‘I apologize to Giorgio Chiellini and the entire football family . . . I vow to the public that there will never again be another incident like [this].’’

The Uruguay striker was banned for four months from all football by FIFA for biting the shoulder of Chiellini during the team’s 1-0 win over Italy in their group-stage game in Brazil.

The incident was not spotted by the referee, and the Uruguayans’ victory sent them through to the second round while Italy was eliminated.

It is the third time Suarez has been banned for biting an opponent, after similar incidents at both Ajax in the Dutch league and Liverpool in the English Premier League.

Chiellini responded on Twitter shortly after Suarez posted his statement, accepting the apology.

‘‘It’s all forgotten,’’ the Italian wrote in English. ‘‘I hope FIFA will reduce your suspension.’’

Suarez had originally denied wrongdoing in a written response to FIFA, and had been staunchly defended by teammates and Uruguayan officials. His apology could be taken into account by FIFA when it considers an appeal of the ban, which the Uruguayan federation has said it will file.

Neymar fit to play

Neymar will be fit to play in the quarterfinals against Colombia despite thigh and knee injuries sustained against Chile, Brazil’s football confederation said Monday.

The confederation said team doctor Jose Luiz Runco checked Neymar again when the squad returned to its training camp and said the player is not a concern for Friday’s match in Fortaleza.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was worried after Saturday’s match, saying it could take days for the player to get better.

Neymar complained of a left thigh injury after Brazil’s penalty shootout win over Chile, and Runco said the player was also being treated for a hit on his right knee.

Robben won’t change

Arjen Robben said he was sorry for one first-half dive against Mexico. Just don’t expect another apology from the Netherlands forward just for being himself.

Robben said Monday he won’t change his playing style or personality after winning the decisive stoppage-time penalty in the Netherlands’ 2-1 win against Mexico Sunday.

Robben provoked a furor after the match by telling Dutch broadcaster NOS he had dived in a first-half incident, though not for the penalty when he was challenged by Mexico captain Rafa Marquez.

‘‘I don’t change myself, that is my personality. I think it’s good,’’ Robben said Monday, appearing calm, smiling and relaxed at a team news conference.

The Dutch forward simply said he had been ‘‘very honest’’ in the television interview.

‘‘Sometimes you are punished for honesty,’’ said Robben, acknowledging it had been ‘‘a stupid action’’ to fall without contact.

‘‘There was one foul in the first half where I went to the ground because I thought he would tackle me. It didn’t have any influence on the game,’’ he said.

FIFA called for fair play on Monday, but declined to take any retrospective action for the dive or subsequent comments.

The Robben incidents reignited a debate on diving, flopping, and falling that began in the opening match of the tournament — a subject which seems to unite fans in anger and players in accepting it is part of the game.

FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer said its disciplinary committee only ‘‘will look into serious infringements.’’

It starts with stops

Lionel Messi poses problems for every team, a fact Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld prefers to think of as an opportunity.

Messi has scored four of Argentina’s six goals, steering his team to three group-stage wins.

But Hitzfeld, a two-time Champions League winner as a coach, struck a confident tone ahead of Switzerland’s second-round World Cup match on Tuesday in Sao Paolo, particularly regarding the player many consider to be the best player in the world.

‘‘I think any defense will face problems when facing Messi and problems are there to be solved,’’ he said. ‘‘I trust my people, I trust my defense . . . How to stop Messi? We will show you tomorrow how we do it.’’

Under Hitzfeld, Switzlerand lost only once in 18 matches over the two years leading up to the World Cup and reached No. 6 in the FIFA rankings. That earned them top seeding in Group E.

A win over Argentina would equal Switzerland’s greatest World Cup achievement, putting them in the quarterfinals for the first since it hosted the tournament in 1954.

Hitzfeld, 65, who says he will retire following the World Cup, told reporters Monday: ‘‘I don’t think it is going to be my last match.’’

Each time Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella was asked Monday about his lineup — and there were many attempts in different manners — he politely declined to hint about what style each team might play.

Sabella must decide whether to go with Ezequiel Lavezzi in a three-man front missing striker Sergio Aguero. An injured left thigh muscle forced him to leave in the first half of Argentina’s 3-2 win over Nigeria last Wednesday.

One billion served

Facebook has passed the 1 billion mark in World Cup interactions. The company said Monday the milestone was reached over the weekend. No other single event has generated this much activity on Facebook in the history of the social media site . . . With 10.4 million viewers on Univision, Sunday’s match between Mexico and the Netherlands is the most-watched Spanish-language broadcast in US television history. The Nielsen company said Monday that beat the previous record of 9.4 million for a match between Mexico and Argentina in the 2010 World Cup. The Mexico-Netherlands game was also seen by 6.6 million people on ESPN — meaning a total of 17 million watched. ESPN said it was the most-watched soccer game for an English-language station in the United States that did not involve the US national team . . . Greece’s players want their World Cup bonus money to be used to build a new training site for the national team in the cash-strapped country. Yiannis Andrianos, the government’s general secretary for sports, said Monday that players had written to Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras asking that the money be used to fund a new training site and that he had promised to do ‘‘everything possible’’ to respond to that request . . . FIFA suspended the spokesman of the Brazilian football confederation for one game over a confrontation with Chilean player Mauricio Pinilla on the sidelines during their match Saturday. Rodrigo Paiva was suspended for the quarterfinal Friday between Brazil and Colombia. He will be allowed to work for the team in the media briefing the day before.

. . . Mexican Javier Aguirre is set to become Japan’s new coach following the resignation of Alberto Zaccheroni. Nikkansports newspaper reported Aguirre, 55, is expected to travel to Japan in July to sign a $2.45 million a year deal that would run through the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Zaccheroni stepped down after Japan was eliminated from the World Cup . . . Brazilian police are conducting a homicide investigation into the death of an Iranian-Swedish man who manages a Rio de Janeiro hostel that’s popular with adventurous foreign travelers, many of whom are there for the World Cup. Rio investigators said in a statement that the body of 34-year-old Millad Mille Ballai was discovered in the hostel over the weekend in the Vidigal slum.

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