Uruguay bite back against Italy
NATAL, Brazil -- Uruguay's battling display -- aided considerably by a 59th-minute red card to Italy midfielder Claudio Marchisio -- was enough to give La Celeste a 1-0 victory over the Azzurri, and secure passage to the knockout stages. The result was by no means the only talking point.
Here are three thoughts from the match.
1. Luis Suarez the talking point, for all the wrong reasons.
The Uruguay striker had done much to rehabilitate his image this season after starring for Liverpool, and it was his two goals against England that put La Celeste in position to advance to the second round. But now Suarez could find himself in the doghouse again, as he appeared to bite Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in the second half just before Diego Godin's winner.
Of course, this wouldn't be the first time Suarez has been accused of such behavior. While playing for Ajax in 2010 he bit PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal, and after joining Liverpool, he resorted to the same tactic on Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.
If it is determined that Suarez did indeed bite Chiellini -- and current replays weren't entirely conclusive -- FIFA will no doubt come down hard on the Liverpool striker. The Italian defender was certainly in no doubt as to what happened, telling Sky Italia:
"Suarez is a sneak and he gets away with it because FIFA want their stars to play in the World Cup. I'd love to see if they have the courage to use video evidence against him. The referee saw the bite mark too, but he did nothing about it."
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On a day when Uruguay delivered a gutty performance to qualify for the second round -- and considering Suarez's importance to the Uruguay side -- it's a headache that manager Oscar Tabarez and the rest of the Uruguay players don't need.
2. Marchisio's red card, the turning point as Godin plays hero
Italy manager Cesare Prandelli opted for a three-man back line, and with the Azzurri needing only a draw to advance, it looked like it would be an afternoon of frustration for La Celeste. For long stretches, the Italy defense looked fairly comfortable dealing with whatever Uruguay threw at it.
Only twice when playing 11-on-11 did Uruguay really threaten. On the first occasion, Gigi Buffon was there to save the day. The veteran goalkeeper produced a superb double save in the first half. Suarez, working a sharp one-two with Nicolas Lodeiro, saw his tight-angled shot stuffed by Buffon, who then recovered to stop Lodeiro's follow-up. In the second half, Cristian Rodriguez was put clean through, only to fire his shot wide.
But Marchisio's 59th-minute red card for a high tackle on Uruguay midfielder Egidio Arevalo tilted the playing field in La Celeste's direction, and it proved to be too much for the Azzurri to handle, though Buffon did his utmost to keep the score level. In the 66th minute, Edinson Cavani's shot was blocked right into the path of Suarez, but Buffon turned aside his right-footed effort.
It wasn't enough. The man advantage, plus the introduction of Christian Stuani and Gaston Ramirez enabled Uruguay to bombard the Italy penalty area with crosses. Finally, in the 80th minute, a corner kick from Ramirez found Godin, enabling the Uruguay defender to head home past Buffon.
3. Balotelli's funk leads to sad end for Pirlo
When Mario Balotelli scored the winner in the Azzurri's 2-1 win over England, he looked poised to have a magnificent tournament. Instead, his World Cup completely unraveled. He missed several good chances to score in the 1-0 loss to Costa Rica, and against Uruguay, he fell even deeper into a funk.
Super Mario had some decent spells in terms of his hold-up play during the first half, but he was completely shackled in the attacking third by Uruguay's three-man back line of Martin Caceres, Godin and Jose Gimenez. Even when Balotelli attempted to go up against the smaller Caceres, he found little success. When Uruguay showed no compunction about bodying up Balotelli, the Italian was given scant protection from referee Marco Rodriguez.
Worse, Balotelli was booked in the 23rd minute -- a caution that would have seen him suspended had Italy advanced -- for an ill-advised attempt to jump over Uruguay wing-back Alvaro Pereira that resulted in him clipping the defender in the back of his head. Balotelli was eventually subbed for Marco Parolo at halftime by Prandelli, with Italian media reports indicating that the move was tactical, given that Italy only needed a draw to advance, as well as the fact that Balotelli had picked up a knock.
This was supposed to be a tournament that saw Balotelli build on his performances at Euro 2012, when his two goals in the semifinal against Germany put Italy into the final. Instead, this has turned out to be a World Cup to forget for the Italy striker.
As for Italy, the result will prove to be a bitter pill, and likely marked the last appearance at a World Cup by Andrea Pirlo. The Italian maestro will still go down as one of the greatest players of this era, and he'll still have numerous trophies -- including the 2006 World Cup -- to look back on. That said, it's a disappointing end for a legend.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.