By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Uruguay beat Italy 1-0 this afternoon at the Arena das Dunas to make it into the last sixteen of the FIFA World Cup. Diego Godín headed the game’s only goal nine minutes from time to send the Italians out at the group stage for the second consecutive tournament.
With so much at stake the game was low on technical quality but high on passion. With a superior goal difference, a draw would have sufficed for the Italians whereas Uruguay needed to take all three points.
Almost 40,000 were packed inside the stadium with the majority seemingly supporting Uruguay. The stands were packed with the famous sky blue shirts of the two-time world champions.
Italy failed to get a stranglehold on the midfield, with playmaker Andrea Pirlo marked closely throughout. Having announced his reitrement from international football, the Juventus star has now made his final appearance at a World Cup tournament.
To make things worse for Italy striker Mario Balotelli had a dreadful first half. Coach Cesare Prandelli took him off at the interval to try to put some bite into his offensive sector, knowing a goal in the second half would mean Uruguay needed to score twice to progress.
Uruguay started the game slowly but gradually found their rhythm. Edinson Cavani played wide on the left, leaving Luís Suarez as the only attacking option down the middle for the South Americans. He found the going tough against a rugged Italian back three of Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci. When Suarez found himself with a sight of goal, he was thwarted by en excellent stop from veteran Gianluigi Buffon.
The Uruguayans in the crowd, sensing a goal, made more noise. Perhaps feeling the pressure, Italian midfielder Marchisio made a dangerous lunge at Arévalo Rios and was sent off. The initiative was now firmly with Uruguay. Buffon was a one man wall keeping Italy’s World Cup hopes alive, but finally the wall cracked. On 81 minutes, Godín rose highest at a corner and managed to deflect the ball off his shoulder into the back of the net.
Italy pushed men forward in the dying stages but there was no way through. Uruguay’s hopes of a second world title on Brazilian soil are still burning brightly.
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