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.

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all