HOW sad the beautiful, spell-binding years of Andrea Pirlo gracing the blue shirt of Italy should end in an ugly match darkened by the shadow of football's dark arts and dragged further into the sewer by the latest vile act of the game's ultimate Jekyll and Hyde.
It is unfortunate, too, that it should prove the final chapter of Cesare Prandelli's time in charge of Italy, a noble man who felt he had no option other than to resign in the wake of his team's exit from the World Cup alongside the president of the national association, Giancarlo Abete.
If those who run world football have any true wish to promote the right image of their sport rather than deal in politically-correct platitudes while fresh talk of bungs and backhanders escalates, events last night in the Estadio das Dunas in Natal should also finish Luis Suarez's difficult relationship with this not-so-beautiful game.
Loading article content
They won't, of course, but they should.
A mere five days after showing why he is, without doubt, one of the very best strikers of recent times as he demolished England a month after undergoing knee surgery, this most undesirable of Uruguayans used up any remaining degree of goodwill or understanding that exists towards him.
Those of us who marvelled at his ability and indomitable spirit following that win against Roy Hodgson's side and asked that his past misdemeanours at least be overlooked if not forgiven, now feel betrayed, appalled and exceedingly foolish.
With the scoreline goalless and his nation heading out of the competition, Suarez clashed with Giorgio Chiellini in the penalty area as they competed for a free-kick. At first, it looked as if the Liverpool forward had floored the defender with an attempted headbutt.
The sight of Suarez checking that his front teeth were still in place as he rolled around the grass, however, gave the first indication that the worst of the devils that drive this most complex of men had returned. Things were rather nastier than just an overzealous nod of the noggin.
Chiellini is the hardly the type of guy you would place in front of the jury as a reliable witness. You would even check the change after sending him for the messages. He had been guilty of some of the most ridiculous play-acting earlier in this encounter and there was an element of 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' when he got back to his feet and charged after the Mexican referee, Marco Rodriguez, pulling down the left shoulder of his jersey and claiming he had just been bitten.
On reviewing the photographic evidence, though, it appears the Juventus centre-back, on this occasion, was telling the truth. There were five, clear red marks on his skin. Let's just say that they do not look like the work of midgies.
Television repeats can only add to the suspicion that Suarez has returned to his bad, old ways. FIFA will surely study this footage closely and it will be something of a miracle should the 27-year-old be permitted to play any further part in events in Brazil.
Given his previous indiscretions, it does not seem wrong to ask whether there should be any place in professional football at all when it is clearly, undeniably unsafe to be on the same park as him. "It was ridiculous not to send Suarez off," said Chiellini after the match. "It is clear-cut. There was the obvious dive afterwards because he knew very well that he did something that he shouldn't have done."
Doing things he shouldn't do is Suarez's stock-in-trade. He was fined £40,000 and forced to spend eight fixtures on the sidelines for racially abusing Patrice Evra in 2011.
Singling others out for their skin colour is little other than a sideline, though. Biting is his real speciality. Suarez was suspended for seven games during his time at Ajax for plunging those prominent gnashers into the shoulder of the PSV Eindhoven player Ottman Bakal.
It was a 10-match suspension which came his way for gnawing on the arm of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in 2013. That afternoon, he was permitted to stay on the park and score an equaliser. Yesterday, the striker stayed on the park and watched his national side score a goal which took them to the last 16 of the most prestigious tournament on the planet.
Diego Godin has made a habit of hitting the net at important times this season. His header at Camp Nou earned Atletico Madrid the 1-1 draw and the Spanish title.
That goal, unlike the one that came yesterday, did not come from the ball hitting off his left shoulder at a corner.
This game had just become messy and nasty by that stage, though. Prandelli fielded three central defenders in the Juventus trio of Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci and Italy were in control of matters as they chased the draw they needed to qualify.
Pirlo was not exactly his masterful self, but played his part in dictating the pace of a scrappy match spoiled by far too many fouls. Official FIFA statistics stated that there were 39 committed over the 90 minutes, but it felt like much more.
Uruguay set out to wind up Mario Balotelli. He picked up a yellow card for a karate kick on Alvaro Pereira before going off at the break. It was one infringement after the other.
Although Uruguay made their own tactical changes at the interval that proved successful, it was the red card received by Claudio Marchisio just before the hour that truly sealed Italy's fate. He had no reason to go over the ball with his studs up when challenging Egidio Arevalo Rios and had no reason to take aim at his opponent's shin, but the Italian did.
Marchisio just is not as competent in those dark arts as others. He let his country down yesterday. He let down Pirlo, set to proceed with plans to retire from the international scene, and also Prandelli. It would be wrong to say that the bad guys won. Neither of these sides are shrinking violets when it comes to the crunch, but the way FIFA deals with Suarez will decide whether or not football is the overall loser.