Story of the game
Tension was rife in this game’s early portion as both sides knew that their tournament progression was in the balance. A draw would be enough for Italy to get out of the group, but approaching the game with this in mind is never advisable. Balotelli made a few runs behind the line of the defence, and Pirlo’s passing was influential over both short and long range. Early chances were limited and the most either goalkeeper had to do was when Muslera palmed away a swerving effort from a long direct free kick by Andrea Pirlo.
Smart combination play between Suarez and Lodeiro produced a little space for the Liverpool forward but Gigi Buffon was out to cover the angle very quickly and produced a high quality double save to deny both of the duo in turn. Other than this, first half action very much suited the Italians as the pace of the game was slowed right down by Pirlo’s metronomic passing and his sense of control.
Uruguay had begun to secure a foothold in the game, but the match was absolutely turned on its head when Claudio Marchisio was shown a straight red card on 60 minutes. In a rather innocuous challenge, Juventus’ midfielder raised his foot with his studs showing and did scrape along the upper calf region. In fairness to the referee, he was very near to the incident and by the letter of the law, his decision was a rightful one. Nevertheless, Italy felt hard done by and soon developed a siege mentality.
Soon after the match had settled down again, Suarez and Cavani combined in rather fortunate circumstances for the first time in the 90 minutes and the number 9 had the opportunity to release a snap shot with the outside of his foot. A smart save by Italy captain Gigi Buffon signalled the start of the surely incessant Uruguay pressure.
A visible result of the extra ambition the South Americans were beginning to show was their defence looking far less than stable. With 10 men, Italy had some of their clearest openings of the game as Uruguay lived dangerously. Muslera was the busiest that he had been and Cassano was getting some joy by running into the channels.
Suarez was embroiled in controversy once more as there was a coming together between himself and Chiellini in the penalty area. The Italy defender claimed Suarez had bitten his shoulder but what cannot be argued is that Chiellini swung an elbow at Suarez. The confrontation was not seen by the referee but if it had been, there was an argument for a red card for both.
Only a few minutes after this, Uruguay made a foray down the right flank and from the resulting corner, Diego Godin rose highest to scruffily force the ball home. The Brazuca flew past Buffon into the bottom corner despite coming off Godin’s shoulder.
Italy threw everything they had at the Uruguayan defence in the last few minutes but couldn’t really carve out a significant opening and so Oscar Tabarez’s team held out for the victory they needed to progress from the group, in the end as runners-up to Costa Rica.
Italy: Buffon (capt), Darmian, Barzagli, Bonnuci, Chiellini, De Sciglio, Verratti (Motta – 75’), Marchisio, Pirlo, Immobile (Cassano – 72’), Balotelli (Parolo – 45’).
Uruguay: Muslera, Caceres, Giminez, Godin, A. Pereira (Stuani – 63’), Gonzalez, Arevalo, Rodriguez (Ramirez – 78’), Lodeiro (M. Pereira – 45’), Cavani, Suarez.
1. Gianluigi Buffon – 7. Far better than the nervous wreck we saw against Costa Rica, he made a great double stop in the second half and successfully punched clear several crosses.
4. Matteo Darmian – 6. Not quite as influential as in the previous two matches, but still played well indeed. Uruguay do not play with a great deal of width so his positional sense had to be on point, which it was.
15. Andrea Barzagli – 6. The experienced defender did not have a stand out game but dealt relatively well with Uruguayan thrusts.
19. Leonardo Bonucci – 6. Relatively solid and rose well to make some clearing headers, but was occasionally outmanoeuvred by Suarez and Cavani.
3. Giorgio Chiellini – 7. His usual level of composure was there for all to see and he was able to supply the midfield with high quality service. Did well not to be completely distraught after Suarez bit his shoulder and maintained a level head for the rest of the game after the incident had died down somewhat.
2. Mattia De Sciglio – 7. Showed just what Italy had missed when he was absent from the side through injury, working terrifically hard on the left flank and putting in some great covering challenges.
23. Marco Verratti – 7. The liveliest of the Italian team and he was the only one who seemed prepared and able to take on a defender. He was energetic and technically strong, and it was sad that his game ended prematurely on 75 minutes due to injury.
8. Claudio Marchisio – 4. Did not make a meaningful impression on the game in a positive sense at all, and the first thing of note that anyone saw of him was receiving his marching orders for a dangerously high challenge.
21. Andrea Pirlo – 6. Not quite at his peerless best and did seem to fade as the game went on after starting in his usual high class style. A few direct free kicks and sidereal passes caused Uruguay some problems, but he was not his team’s star man like normal.
17. Ciro Immobile – 4. Had a very poor game and couldn’t link up with any of his team mates on a regular basis. The importance of Balotelli was emphasised further by Immobile’s rather hopeless display and there was no evidence that he could be a genuine replacement.
9. Mario Balotelli – 5. Started off relatively brightly but faded badly in the latter stages of the first half as he became increasingly frustrated. A combination of a niggle and a yellow card resulted in his withdrawal at half time.
18. Marco Parolo – 4. I can’t think of a single thing he did in the half he was on the pitch. He should have found space between the lines but couldn’t supply the forwards with quality deliveries.
10. Antonio Cassano – 6. Gave Italy an extra edge to their attacking play and they looked a more dangerous outfit with him on the field.
5. Thiago Motta – 5. Kept the ball well enough but isn’t really equipped for a side chasing the game.
1. Fernando Muslera – 6. Was primarily a spectator for the duration of match, but did not let anyone down when he was rarely called upon.
22. Martin Caceres – 6. Solid display, especially considering that he played across the back line following a change in formation to force the issue late on.
13. José Maria Giménez – 7. Still only in the formative years of a promising career, but this did not show. He used his pace well to rescue his team and showed a decent amount of tactical intelligence.
3. Diego Godin – 8. A master of tackling and using his skills to the absolute best of his ability, Godin was excellent in his own box and later on, in the opposition’s too. The finish may have been scruffy, but the determination to get there was without question.
6. Alvaro Pereira – 6. Helped to provide a degree of width and attacking impetus down the left side and was not exposed too often.
20. Alvaro Gonzalez – 6. Attempted to engage the Italian midfield in quite advanced areas and did succeed on occasion.
17. Egidio Arevalo Rios – 7. A very good combative display as is regularly the case with Arevalo, he protected his back four well all game.
7. Christian Rodriguez – 6. Fairly active in the offensive and defensive thirds of the pitch, but was possibly rightly sacrificed for the more gifted Ramirez with just over 10 minutes to go.
14. Nicolas Lodeiro – 6. Looked bright enough and found some space between the lines, so it was somewhat of a surprise when he was withdrawn at half time.
21. Edinson Cavani – 5. Flitted in and out of the game, only occasionally getting on the ball and affecting play.
9. Luis Suarez – 1. Starved of service in the first half, he put in a great deal of defensive work for his side but still looked the most likely Uruguayan to crack the Italian defence. But Suarez’s game will only be remembered for one thing; his disgraceful bite. In terms of playing performance, he was certainly a 6 if not a 7, but I cannot give him anything more than 1 out of 10.
16. Maxi Pereira – 6. Showed nothing of the rashness that caused his sending off against Costa Rica and helped to secure his side’s victory.
11. Christian Stuani – 5. Was not given a great deal of opportunity to impress, but at the same time he didn’t seem to put in a great deal of effort either.
18. Gaston Ramirez – 6. Showed flashes of skill and increased composure in the short time he was on the pitch.
Man of the Match
Diego Godin was an absolute rock at the back all game long; first seeing off Mario Balotelli, then Ciro Immobile, and finally holding firm against the inevitable late onslaught once his side went ahead. Not only was he composed against attacks on the ground but he protected his goalkeeper well against aerial assault too. Late in the second half, in a moment reminiscent of Atlético’s league triumph, he popped up with a crucial header from a set piece to send his team’s fans delirious.