Italy vs Uruguay World Cup 2014: Andrea Pirlo fights to hold back time and keep Italy alive

Midfielder’s illustrious international career will be ended by Uruguay defeat today

The game of the week takes place today in Natal, and Andrea Pirlo knows that everything is on the line. If Italy lose to Uruguay their World Cup will be over, just 10 days after their brilliant victory over England. Pirlo’s international career will be over, too, the  35-year-old having promised that this tournament will be his last with the Azzurri before he steps aside.

LIVE: Follow today's games, including England v Costa Rica, Italy v Uruguay and events in Group C

Uruguay must know this all, too. Despite their disastrous defeat to Costa Rica in their first match, a second win today will send them into the last 16. It would be an impressive turnaround, and to complete it they would need to copy the example of the little Latin American country that beat them in their first game.

Costa Rica’s performance against Italy was one of the displays of the tournament. It was not just a typical giant-killing, reliant on lucky bounces and influential details, but a genuine outplaying in all aspects of the game. In the first half Costa Rica tore into Italy and took the lead. In the second half they sat back, dared Italy to pick through them, and saw out the win.

What Costa Rica did, in both halves of the game, was to render Pirlo irrelevant. The Italy midfielder could barely find his rhythm in the first half, pressed by Yeltsin Tejeda and Celso Borges. As Costa Rica dropped deeper, once ahead, he had the ball but could do little with it.

It was almost a sad sight, to witness one of the all-time greats of the game reduced like this, but this is simply what happens in sport. Xavi, arguably an even greater player than Pirlo, was humbled against the Netherlands, dropped against Chile and was injured for yesterday’s game against Australia. He will not play for Spain again, and is leaving Barcelona this summer to play in Qatar.

 

Pirlo and Xavi have spent the last 10 years mastering time and space on the pitch, winning the 2006 and 2010 World Cups respectively, but the clock is catching up with both of them.

Uruguay are one of the fiercest competitors left in the World Cup, and are no respecters of reputation. They will have seen what Costa Rica did to Pirlo and will try to achieve the same today. Edinson Cavani could drop back off the front to hassle Pirlo, as he did Steven Gerrard last Thursday. Cristian Rodriguez, Arevalo Rios and Alvaro Gonzalez are all relentlessly hard workers in midfield.

All England had to do was offer Uruguay two glints of weakness and this fairly  limited team – albeit with two world-class strikers – was able to punish them. Pirlo proved his superiority to England in Manaus but he is not infallible either, as Costa Rica showed in Recife.

The World Cup is where players can build their reputation and lay their claims to greatness, but also where those whose time has passed can be exposed. Xavi, the last few months have made clear, is finished at the top level. Pirlo will desperately want to stay there a while longer.

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before