ITALY 0-1 URUGUAY
TUESDAY 24TH JUNE – NATAL
Italy just needed a point to qualify to the next round,while Uruguay needed a victory for the same.Such circumstances is what made the final group D fixture highly exciting.
Both sides fielded their strongest lineups with the Italians going for a five man defense line to contain the Uruguay’s combination of Suarez in Cavani up front. Mattia De Sciglio returned from a thigh injury to start for the Azzuri and last season’s top scorer in the Serie A, Ciro Immobile also got his first start of the World Cup.
The first twenty minutes saw very little goal-mouth action with both sides taking turns in dominating the mid-field.Mario Balotelli picked up a yellow card for a high challenge on Pereira. Balotelli out-jumped Pereira to such an extent that his heels caught Pereira’s head and the ref deemed the challenge dangerous enough for a yellow card.This incident marked the start of a series of incidents involving Mario Balotelli.First he skies a shot wide from a Immobile pass,and he really should have played Immobile through who was clearly expecting it. Then just before half-time, the Italian striker goes down on the pitch claiming he was elbowed on the head during an aerial challenge with Diego Godin. Finally his glare at Caceres after the latter fouled him,became a cause for concern for Cesare Prandelli who asked his player to calm down to avoid getting a second yellow.
The first half of this crucial tie was rather event-less. Suarez’s one two with Rodriguez in the 33rd minute called the legendary Buffon into action who made an impressive double-save to keep the match scoreless.
Mario Balotelli was replaced by Mario Perolo at half-time.Balotelli looked likely to pick up a second yellow so this substitution did not come as a surprise to many.Maxi Pereira came on for Nicolas Lodeiro at half-time for Uruguay.
The Los Chharuras started the second half with more urgency as they looked to take a crucial lead.The experienced Maxi Pereira was causing the Azzuri some problems down the right hand wing and the Uruguans looked more organised in the second half.Edinson Cavani threw himself to the ground in the Italian penalty box claiming he was impeded by Leonardo Bonnuci,the referee however waved away his penalty claims.
In the 53rd minute Suarez stepped up to take a free kick ,35 yards from goal.He uncharacteristically sent the ball wide and into the crowd, he did no good to his dead-ball reputation there. Until now the game was simmering,but in the 59th minute it boiled over when Italy’s Claudio Marchisio was shown the red card for a dangerous challenge on Diego Arevalo. Marchisio caught Arevalo’s shin and the referee had no hesitation whatsoever in immediately showing red to the Italian midfielder.
Cristian Stuani replaced Alvaro Pereira in the 63rd minute and now the Uruguan’s smelled blood as they looked to exploit the extra spaces on the pitch with Italy down to ten men.
The best chance of the game came in the 64th minute when Cavani’s shot from the “D” was blocked
but Suarez picked it up and created a chance for himself and poked the ball towards the bottom corner with the outside of his right foot but Buffon was down quickly to parry the ball away for a corner.The save left Buffon punching the air with pride and the look on Suarez’s face was that of utter disbelief.
In the 68th minute Ciro Immobile created a chance on the other end and he would have put Italy ahead had it not been for Gimenez’s timely sliding tackle that put the ball out for a corner,even the Italians in the crowd appreciated the challenge from the Atletico Madrid defender.
Italy were looking to hold on to the goalless result which was going to ensure qualification as they brought on Antonio Cassano for Ciro Immobile and soon after the promising Marco Veratti was replaced by the seasoned Thiago Motta . .
Maxi Pereira caused problems on the right wing again and young Mattia De Sciglio had to foul the Uruguan to contain him. The challenge earned De Sciglio a yellow card and Uruguay a chance to swing one into the box.The resuting free-kick on the 77th minute turned out to be harmless for the Italians.
Christian Rodriguez,who had been a handful for the Italian defence all day,made way for Southampton’s Gaston Ramirez in the 78th minute.
As if a red-card and three penalty claims wasn’t enough drama for this match,in the 79th minute Luis Suarez leans his head into Georgio Chiellini’s shoulder and the next second both players were down on the pitch,but Georgio Chiellini quickly gets up and exposes his shoulder to his team-mates vigorously claiming that Luis Suarez had bit him. Meanwhile Suarez was still down on the six-yard box holding his upper teeth. Replays clearly show that Suarez did in-fact lean onto Chiellini’s shoulder and during the incident the ball was nowhere near the players concerned. Luis Suarez was banned for 10 games the season before last for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic,therefore biting an opponent is not something Luis Suarez is new to
The incident seemed to have rattled the italian defence as they defended a corner from the right very poorly and the Uruguan captain Diego Godin took full advantage as he broke the deadlock in the 81st minute. The ball swung in from the right connected with Godin’s shoulder and was into the net before Buffon could do anything about it.
The Italians were desperate now and they earned themselves a free-kick about 30 yards from the Uruguayan goal. Pirlo stepped up to take the free-kick and tried to find the top right corner of the net,but failed miserably as the shot was well wide off the mark and went into the stands.At such a crucial time,one wouldn’t expect Andrea Pirlo to not hit the target from 30 yards, it seemed like it was going to be Uruguay’s day.
Without their preferred strikers on the pitch,the Italians were finding it very hard to penetrate the Uruguayan defence and in the 89th minute Cavani found Suarez who was one on one with Buffon but failed to make anything of the golden chance.
Five minutes of stoppage time was announced during which the Uruguayans admirably kept the Italians out and held on for the one-nil win ,which sent them through to the round of sixteen and knocked the Azzuri out of the world cup in the group stages, second time in a row.
ITALY:Buffon, De Sciglio, Chiellini, Darmian, Marchisio, Balotelli (Parolo 46), Barzagli, Immobile (Cassano 71), Bonucci, Pirlo, Verratti (Motta 75).
BOOKINGS: Balotelli 22, De Sciglio 77.
SENT OFF: Marchisio 59.
URUGUAY: Muslera, Godin, A. Pereira (Stuani 63), Rodriguez (Ramirez 78), Suarez, Gimenez, Lodeiro (M. Pereira 46), Arevalo, Gonzalez, Cavani, Caceres.
GOALS: Godin 81.
BOOKINGS: Arevalo 46.