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.
3. Marchisio’s costly miscalculation
He really didn’t give the referee any choice did he? Whilst one can argue about the intent of Claudio Marchisio’s foul it was still reckless and dangerous. The referee had a clear view of it and it really wasn’t a surprise when he produced a red. As the cliché goes a player is always in trouble if they give the ref a decision to make.
Oddly enough the sending off did galvanize the Italians for a while. Their concentration levels never dropped but in the end the pressure told as Diego Godín’s 81st minute winner for Uruguay broke the Italian resistance.
However there was a major talking point that immediately preceded La Celeste’s goal.
4. Will Suárez ever learn?
What was Luis Suárez thinking? It’s fair to say that George Chiellini paid close attention to the Liverpool striker but the latter’s moment of madness in the 80th minute beggars belief. Suárez bit Chiellini and the Italian certainly felt that was the case displaying his shoulder to show off the bite mark.
The referee did seem to deal with the incident but it’ll be interesting to see if any further disciplinary action will be taken against Suárez.
If Suárez did bite Chiellini then he really hasn’t learned any lessons at all from past misdemeanors and should receive a heavy ban. But even if he didn’t it was extremely foolish of Suárez to react to Chiellini’s provocation. After all that Suárez has been through in his career he certainly should have known better.
5. The Americas prosper
This World Cup has seen teams from the Americas perform. Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Argentina have all made it through to the next stage and could be joined by the US and Ecuador.
Europe on the other hand will see the likes of Croatia, Italy, England, Bosnia and Herzegovina and World Champions Spain return home. Portugal, Greece and Russia’s hopes are on a knife-edge whilst Switzerland has their work cut out for them.
The odds are that the World Cup trophy will find a new home in the Americas.