Diego Godin’s late header sealed a 1-0 win for Uruguay that put them in the last 16 of the World Cup, as four-time champions Italy crashed out at the group stage for the second-straight tournament.
For large periods both teams failed to get going, but Godin’s late header grabbed the three points which made sure Uruguay finished second in Group D behind winners Costa Rica who drew with England.
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Controversy marred the second half of the match, as Claudio Marchisio was sent off for a lunging tackle and the Italian side were reduced to 10-men. That made all the difference as Uruguay piled on the pressure but more controversy arrived just before Godin’s game-winner, as Luis Suarez inexplicably looked to have bit Giorgio Chiellini in the shoulder. More on that to follow.
Godin’s winner then arrived as the Atletico Madrid defender followed up his La Liga winning and UEFA Champions League final goals by netting another crucial strike to send La Celeste through.
He was the hero as Uruguay is in the knockout stages but we will certainly hear more about Suarez’s incident as the fallout continues.
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It was, as expected, a tense start in Natal as both Mario Balotelli and Suarez were the subject of touch tackles early on. The first real effort on target came from a trademark Andrea Pirlo free kick which dipped and swerved just under the bar and troubled Uruguayan ‘keeper Muslera enough to make him palm it over for a corner.
As the first half wore on Suarez and Cavani grew into the match and the Italian defense struggled to keep the combative duo under wraps. The latter went down in the box under a challenge midway through the first half but Uruguay’s penalty appeals were waved away as the tentative opening continued.
Balotelli was then cautioned for a high challenge as the Italian forward showed his frustration and would walk a tight-rope for the rest of the game.
Uruguay started to push for the opening goal they craved and Suarez found some space in the box but Gianluigi Buffon smothered his effort and also blocked Nicolas Lodeiro’s follow up with a fine double-save. For the rest of the first half both sides continued with the tough-tackling and staunch defensive play as Suarez and co. had 45 minutes to save their World Cup aspirations.
[ RESULTS: Rodriguez carries Colombia | Greece shocks Ivory Coast | Costa Rica clinches Group D ]
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At half time both teams made changes, as Balotelli was replaced by Marco Parolo as the eccentric frontman looked injured but was also risking a red card after several confrontations with Uruguayan players. Maxi Pereira replaced Lodeiro at the break for Uruguay as both managers tried to shake things up with a last 16 place on the line.
Suarez tried to get things going as he clipped a ball through to Rodriguez but the left winger dragged his effort wide of the far post. Then the entire game turned on its head as Marchisio was sent off for a lunging tackle on Arevalo and Italy were reduced to 10-men. The tackle was right in front of referee Marco Rodriguez and he had no hesitation in dishing out a straight-red.
Uruguay smelt blood in the water.
Italy’s defense dug deep and Buffon used all his experience to make a terrific save from Suarez as the predatory striker ran clean through on goal but the Juventus ‘keeper pushed his effort wide. The Uruguayans kept pushing hard for the goal which would send them into the knockout stages and that finally came as Godin headed home from Gaston Ramriez’s corner in the 82nd minute to break Italian hearts.
Italy: Buffon, De Sciglio, Chiellini, Darmian, Marchisio, Balotelli (Parolo, 45′), Barzagli, Immobile (Cassano, 70′), Bonucci, Pirlo, Verratti (Motta, 75′)
Red Card: Marchisio (60′)
Uruguay: Muslera, Godin, M. Pereira (Stuani, 62′), Rodriguez (Ramirez, 77′), Suarez, Gimenez, Lodeiro (A. Pereira, 45′), Arevalo, Gonzalez, Cavani, Caceres
Goal: Godin (82′)