Italy did not win against Uruguay because they refused to try.
They should think about that as they fly home from Brazil, eliminated from the World Cup after a 1-0 loss to the South American side Tuesday.
Italian manager Cesare Prandelli didn’t have to think about things very long. He resigned as coach of the national team after the loss.
Costa Rica wins Group D while Uruguay finishes second and plays Colombia in the next round.
Italy goes home.
Yes, there were extenuating circumstances.
They include a highly debatable red card call early in the second half issued by Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez on Italy’s Claudio Marchisio and a missed call on Uruguay forward Luis Suarez when he snacked on Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder.
It was the third time the man who is now known as The Cannibal has bitten an opponent on the pitch.
With all that said, Italy had control of their destiny. All they needed was a tie.
Before the game, the Italians stated clearly they would play to win not to tie.
It certainly didn’t look like that’s what they were doing.
Italy showed little desire in coming forward and getting the goal that likely would have assured them of a spot in the next round.
Mario Balotelli was a disaster, more inclined to work on his acting skills than soccer skills. He was more a question mark than exclamation mark.
Ciro Immobile was just that, not mobile. He was completely ineffective.
The Italians didn’t create a solid chance on net until they were desperate and down 1-0 after 81 minutes.
Despite the new-found desire in Italian soccer to play a more attractive and inventive style, it’s hard for players go against what’s in their DNA. For them, it’s about playing conservatively. Don’t give up a goal before scoring one. Think ‘don’t lose’ before you think ‘win.’
It has doomed Italy in the past and doomed them against Uruguay.
That is no one’s fault except theirs.
That said, until Marchisio was sent off in the 59th minute, Uruguay could have played for two days and likely not scored. The Italians looked comfortable defending and rarely were caught out by Suarez or Edinson Cavani.
In a game which teams are playing to move on in a World Cup, the referee has to show an understanding of how to manage a game.
Marchisio challenged J. M. Gimenez with his studs up on a 50-50 ball. He did not go in with intent to hurt anyone. It was not done with force. It was not malicious. It made contact with a shin pad and not a knee. Marchisio hadn’t done anything in the game to that point to warrant a warning. When Marchisio was red-carded, Gimenez was standing up applauding.
At worse it warranted a yellow card, especially considering the importance of the game. But the referee made a snap decision that changed the game.
Uruguay had 30 minutes plus extra time to pressure Italy and they eventually broke through in the 81st minute when Diego Godin headed a ball home against Italian keeper Pierluigi Buffon.
For the final nine minutes and added time, the Italians played the way they should have played from the beginning.
Buffon had it right when he said Italy deserved to be eliminated.
“It’s a sad day for us as a team and as players,” he was quoted as saying in an Italian newspaper. “We gave ourselves too much credit after the first win (against England.)
“The harsh reality is that we are a team that didn’t score in the last two games of the tournament and created few chances.”
As for the referee ...
“The truth is he didn’t give us any help but you can’t always blame everyone else for what happens,” Buffon said.
The man who is likely done playing internationally had a final comment and it wasn’t particularly complimentary to some of Italy’s young players.
“It was the veterans who pulled the cart in this tournament,” Buffon said.
In the end the real epitaph the Italians will have to live with is that they didn’t want to win as much as they wanted to survive.
In a tournament of this calibre that is a death wish.