This game was a must-win for Uruguay and a must-not lose for the Italians and the differing mindsets of the two sides leant itself to a tense and edgy contest.
After losing their opening match, the Uruguayans deserve a lot of credit for getting the results needed to book their berth in the knockout stages.
Italy, as they did in 1950, return home early from Brazil and Cesare Prandelli will rue not only this result but the defeat to Costa Rica as well. Italy had two chances to qualify and failed on both occasions to take them. They no doubt are regretting their decision to play for the draw in this match, rather than search for the victory.
Ordinarily, Óscar Tabárez, Uruguay’s coach, would be celebrating his side’s qualification to the round of 16 but one suspects that he’ll be busy dealing with the fallout of Luis Suárez latest on-pitch indiscretion. It is a controversy that Tabárez and Uruguay can do without.
Here are my 5 observations from the Italy-Uruguay game:
1. Italy initially suffocated the Uruguayans
Cesare Prandelli and Italy opted for an old school game plan and performance. Knowing that they only needed a draw to qualify the Italians initially kept the ball intelligently, broke up the game and never allowed La Celeste anytime to settle and get into any sort of rhythm.
Whilst the Azzurri didn’t create too much at the other end the tactics were relatively straightforward, take the sting out of the Uruguayans and frustrate them.
When the Uruguayans did create chances they either snatched at their opportunities or found Gianluigi Buffon equal to their efforts. The veteran goalkeeper prevented Luis Suárez from getting the ball across goal in the 33rd minute before flinging himself to block Edinson Cavani’s follow-up. Buffon also pulled off a stunning save in the second half to keep out a Luis Suárez effort toe-poked effort. There wasn’t much he could have done to stop Diego Godín’s towering header.
2. Balotelli and Suárez singled out for ‘special treatment’
Early on in the game Luis Suárez was given some rough treatment by the Italian defenders. George Chiellini certainly made his presence known to Suárez as he and his fellow defenders did their level best to ensure that Uruguay’s danger man didn’t have time to breathe let alone settle.
The Uruguayans for their part were targeting Mario Balotelli especially when the Italian striker was booked for a clumsy challenge in the 22nd minute. Balotelli would have been suspended for Italy’s next game had the Azzurri got through to the knockouts but that didn’t stop the Uruguayans testing Super Mario’s patience. Balotelli was replaced at half time as a result of injury but with his temperament there was always the chance he could have been dismissed had he been 100%. In the end though it wasn’t Balotelli who saw red.