Italy vs Uruguay match report World Cup 2014: Luis Suarez 'bite' overshadows Uruguay progress while Italy are out
Italy 0 Uruguay 1
arena das dunas
Tuesday 24 June 2014
Uruguay knocked Italy out of the World Cup yesterday in a game of cynicism, spite and violence. It climaxed with Luis Suarez appearing to bite Giorgio Chiellini as the Italians, reduced to 10 men after the dismissal of Claudio Marchisio, tried everything they knew to cling on to that most Italian of results, a goalless draw.
They did not hold out and nor did they deserve to. With nine minutes remaining, Diego Godin thundered his header past goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and leapt over the advertising hoardings to display his shirt to the banks of Uruguayans behind the Italian goal.
Only days earlier the World Cup had witnessed the other side of Suarez, the deadly striker who had swooped so spectacularly to dump England out of the tournament. Here Natal saw the Suarez of football infamy as Chiellini removed his shirt to reveal the bite marks on his shoulder. The moment he bit the Juventus defender, Suarez threw his hands to his face in a vain attempt to convince the officials he had been punched.
In Sao Paulo he had shown his genius but this was something else. He had been roughly handled by the Italian defence – there is an image of Andrea Barzagli with his hands around the Liverpool striker’s throat. However, when Fifa replays the film of a dreadful game, it is hard to imagine Suarez taking any further part in this tournament.
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His actions could have huge ramifications for his country and club and one can only imagine his Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers’ reaction as he watched his star man transgress yet again. The irony is that over the last few days Suarez has talked aggressively about the unfair way he is portrayed in the British media. Well, here was the evidence as to why his reputation has been so frequently trashed.
Even if Fifa chooses to believe him when he claims he did not take a chunk out of Chiellini’s shoulder, football’s governing body can hardly turn a blind eye to the aggressive lunge with his head that preceded it.
The game, if that is what it was, resembled nothing so much as the “Battle of Santiago”, the slugfest in the 1962 World Cup between Italy and a Chile side outraged by derogatory comments made about the state of the host nation by two Italian journalists who were forced to flee the country for their own safety.
David Coleman memorably described it as: “The most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football possibly in the history of the game.” The referee, Ken Aston, later came up with the idea of yellow and red cards.
The laws and spirit of the game have changed immeasurably since but this spiteful, barren match was certainly the stupidest, ugliest match of this World Cup.
What was remarkable was that the referee here, Marco Rodriguez, had booked only Mario Balotelli in a dreadful first half that, rarely for this tournament, finished with booing, presumably from the neutrals.
It was for what can be best described as a gymnastic assault on Alvaro Pereira and it meant that, whatever happened in Natal, he would not be involved in the round of 16. Balotelli had himself been targeted with Egidio Arevalo putting his studs down the Italian’s ankles as an early statement of intent.
His contribution had been a single lame shot that threatened the advertising hoardings and he was taken off at half-time, ostensibly because he was injured but more probably because his coach, Cesare Prandelli, thought he might get himself sent off. Instead, it was Marchisio who saw red for a high lunge at Arevalo.
There were further losses when Marco Verratti was taken off on a stretcher. After Italy had lost Riccardo Montolivo to a broken leg before the tournament, it is questionable what resources Prandelli would have left for the knockout stages, had they qualified.
It had begun so differently, amid optimism for what should have been one of the classic contests of this tournament. The seafront at Natal had been full of Uruguayan cars and flags as they joined spontaneous street parties triggered by Brazil’s evisceration of Cameroon. There is an Italian community in Natal but it was swamped by the influx.
The Arena das Dunas, designed by Christopher Lee, the architect who oversaw the Emirates Stadium, is sloped to resemble the shifting sand dunes that dominate Natal. It was, however, Italy who felt the ground going from beneath them.
Andrea Pirlo had remarked before kick-off “no team plays for a draw”, which frankly, given he has spent his entire career in a league where the goalless draw is considered an art form was not a statement to be taken seriously. Temperamentally and technically, Italy were ideally suited to forcing the 0-0 that would have taken them through.
The irony is that had they approached this game and the one in Recife against Costa Rica with even some of the imagination they had displayed in the heart of the Amazon against England, they would not be going home. For all that the headlines will be about Suarez, Italy dished out rather more than they received.
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