Italy can have no complaints: Italians, in general, have never heard a conspiracy theory they didn’t like. That being said, even the reaction from Italy manager Cesare Prandelli (who quit his post Tuesday) and Azzurri fans in the aftermath of this dour and dire contest was over the top. Emotion often clouds people from seeing things as they really are, especially when they’re too close to the action. The truth is often uncomfortable to hear. Here it is anyway. Claudio Marchisio deserved to see red—there was no intent to injure, but his raking challenge on Egidio Arevalo was reckless and dangerous. Luis Suarez took a bite out of Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder, but the referee and his assistants didn’t see it. You can dismiss any talk about a FIFA directive to the refs to overlook infractions in order to ensure a South American nation moves on. Such an accusation is beyond absurd and absolutely reeks of sour grapes. It was an honest oversight by the officials. That’s not to excuse Suarez, who despite being a wonderful player is a deplorable human being. Refs miss things. It happens. You deal with it. You don’t use it as an excuse. The referees didn’t cost Italy a spot in the second round. Rather, it was their inability to unlock two counter-attacking teams (Costa Rica and Uruguay) who did a masterful job of shutting them down. For all of Italy’s possession and impressive passing stats, they couldn’t find a way to break down the South Americans and the Costa Ricans. The Azzurri’s slow and deliberate build-up play allowed them to dictate games, but not put their opponents under any kind of sustained pressure. They were bereft of ideas and lacked a cutting edge in the final third—even Andrea Pirlo was exposed. The Italians never built on their promising performance against England in the opener. They were poor over their last two matches, and that’s why they’re going home. Not that Uruguay was anything special in the group stage, and no neutral should be cheering for them based on Suarez’s despicable actions. But Italy got EXACTLY what it deserved.
England more kitty cats than Three Lions: And so it ends for England. A 0-0 draw against Costa Rica capped off a dire World Cup campaign for the English, who looked disjointed against Los Ticos–little surprise, really, as Roy Hodgson made nine line-up changes. The introduction of Jack Wilshere did little to inspire Hodgson’s side, as they struggled to create much against the CONCACAF surprise package. So, what now? Where do they go from here? Media pundits and the country’s top soccer writers will no doubt be pondering that question for the weeks to come, with gallons of ink and newsprint spent trying to come up with an answer. What does this correspondent think? I wish I had some answer or grand plan. I don’t. The God’s honest truth is I have no idea. None. And I suspect that’s a common feeling among those in power within the English FA.
Greece masters of tournament management: Two goals in three games. Thirty seconds away from being eliminated, only to rescue it via a dramatic penalty. This is Greece. This is who they are. This is what they are about. Miserly efficiency defines the Greek game. That’s a compliment, not a knock on them. Was it pretty? Hardly. But in the end, does it really matter? They’re through to the knockout round while supposed heavyweights Spain, England and Italy are going home. Hammer the Greeks all you want for their (sometimes) unadventurous style and tactics. Greece understands, perhaps better than anybody in international soccer, the importance of pacing yourself. They have mastered the art of tournament management—of doing just enough, and nothing more.
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Game within the game
Uruguay set up to stop Italy, and hit out on the counter with its 4-4-2 formation. In terms of shutting down the Azzurri, the South Americans were superb (see map below). Egido Arevalo did an excellent job protecting the back four, while the defence, led by Diego Godin, gave very little away. Uruguay never lots its shape, and was well-organized. Despite enjoying 75 percent possession and out-passing Uruguay by a wide margin, the Italians managed just one shot on target.
Deep into first-half injury time, Keisuke Honda chipped a ball deep into the Colombian box from the right. With his back to goal and with a defender draped all over him, Shinji Okazaki connected on a beautiful glancing header that sailed past Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina.
Save of the day
Moments after Marchisio was sent off, Gianluigi Buffon came up huge for the Italians, making a diving stop on a low shot from Luis Suarez after the Liverpool man weaved his way through the Azzurri defence.
Match of the day
Greece vs. Ivory Coast featured two late goals—including a late penalty—in what was a tight and dramatic affair.
Best moment of the day
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez imploding during the post-match press conference when reporters grilled him about the Luis Suarez bite on Giorgio Chiellini.
He said it
“They’re things that happen in football, but it was nothing. We’re all footballers.” — Luis Suarez, Uruguay forward
Question of the day
Tweet of the day
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the 18-yard box again:
1) James Rodriguez: The AS Monaco midfielder scored a goal and set up two others after coming on as a substitute for Colombia. 2) Diego Godin: Scored Uruguay’s winning goal and was marvellous in anchoring a defence that shut down Italy. 3) Georgios Samaras: Drew the foul and then converted the penalty shot in injury time to send Greece through to the next round.
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