The France defender should be banned after swinging an elbow at Oswaldo Minda during the goalless draw with Ecuador at the Maracana on Wednesday
The news agenda over the last 24 hours has been dominated by Luis Suarez’s cannibalistic attempt to sink his teeth into an opponent’s shoulder.
The Uruguay striker will soon learn his fate and is facing a considerable ban for the latest indiscretion on a lengthy rap sheet. Anything from six games to two years has been suggested as the potential punishment. He has set his own precedent, and is indefensible.
But an incident here at the Maracana during France’s goalless draw with Ecuador might provide some perspective amid the hysteria.
In the first-half, France defender Mamadou Sakho viciously swung his elbow at Oswaldo Minda as he defended a corner. Fortunately the contact was not as strong as Sakho intended and Minda was able to escape relatively unharmed and with his nose intact.
Yet the potential for serious damage was there. What would you rather – a few bite marks on your shoulder or a shattered jaw?
Suarez’s indiscretion is deemed worse because it is shocking in its nature and socially unacceptable. Much like spitting at an opponent, the physical damage is not the barometer of its severity.
In most circumstances, it would be a one-off. The fact that Suarez has now bitten an opponent on three separate occasions has only fuelled the situation. The Liverpool striker’s World Cup will likely be over – but his club team-mate Sakho should not kick another ball in Brazil either.
As they did with Suarez, Fifa need to review the video evidence and throw the book at Sakho with a ban of at least three matches for violent conduct. There is no possible defence. He was not challenging in the air for a 50-50, it was calculated and pre-meditated.
Didier Deschamps might reflect anyway that a central defensive combination of Laurent Koscielny and Raphael Varane would be more trustworthy for France’s last 16 clash against Nigeria in Brasilia on Monday. Sakho could have no complaints if Les Bleus’ coach makes that choice.
Further to Sakho's indiscretion, second-half substitute Olivier Giroud clearly elbowed Gabriel Achilier on the jaw as the pair wrestled in the area. The blow was not as dangerous and with as much power as Sakho's, but it was an elbow nonetheless. The Arsenal striker was equally fortunate that the referee missed the incident.
Referee Noumandiez Doue did however make the correct decision to send off Antonio Valencia in the 50th minute for a studs-up challenge on Lucas Digne.
The Ecuador captain may have been going for the ball, but it was dangerous, as well he would know, as a player who once spent six months on the sidelines with a broken ankle.
It was the kind of challenge we see on an almost weekly basis in European leagues, the sort pundits would describe as a leg-breaker. Fortunately, Digne was able to continue – but again he will feel far more sore than Giorgio Chiellini.
The Suarez situation is unique, but violent play is far more of an everyday issue that football authorities must address.
They can begin by starting disciplinary proceedings against Sakho and Giroud. They, like Suarez, must get the punishment they deserve.