Italy crash out of World Cup in controversy-filled 1-0 loss to Uruguay

Claudio Villa

SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

Where to begin, where to begin...

We can scream about Luis Suárez and his apparent continued desire to bite every central defender in Europe. We can squabble about how Claudio Marchisio was trying to get out of a tackle yet got a straight red card in the second half. All of those things are true. It's hard enough to win a game with so much on the line, let alone one where you're down a man who shouldn't have been sent off and trying to get a goal for over 30 minutes.

All of those things mask what really went wrong. All of them mask the bigger picture.

Cesare Prandelli and Italy played like garbage in two of three group games, losing to sides that, at least on paper, probably didn't match up talent-wise with the Azzurri's roster. And because of that, Italy's summer vacation is starting a lot earlier than many of the players, coaches and citizens thousands of miles away back home expected. Prandelli changed tactics in hopes of sparking his team to a win against a Uruguay side who could only advance to the knockout stage with a win.

Instead, Italy's end result was just like that in 2010 — on a plane home after just three games.

But it's impossible to think the sending off of Marchisio didn't get to Italy at all — even moreso than the insanity of Suárez taking a bite out of Chiellini's shoulder. That's especially true when you suddenly fall behind after a moment of pure madness and need a goal to advance. This wasn't Italy at its worst, but it was damn close to it.

And at the end of it all, Luis Suárez celebrated the fact that his country advanced to the knockout round while a pair of Italian legends, Andrea Pirlo and Gigi Buffon, walked off the field with dejected looks on their faces that pretty much told the whole story. Justice, you sucked today.

"Suarez is a sneak and he gets away with it because FIFA want their stars to play in the World Cup. I'd love to see if they have the courage to use video evidence against him. The referee saw the bite mark, too, but he did nothing about it."

(Source: Sky Sport Italia)

Amen to that.

Random thoughts and observations

  • Claudio Marchisio, one of the classiest players you will ever see wear the Italy jersey. Really, he is. His foul that led to a red card wasn't deliberate, it wasn't intentional by any means necessary. Marchisio got a stud or two into the top of Egidio Arévalo Rios' right sock, but it was far from intentional. A lot of people will say it's deserved, but it's a harsh red for me. And I'm not wearing my Marchisio Man Crush hat, either.

  • What's almost as bad as Luis Suárez biting Giorgio Chiellini? Gastón Rámirez trying to hide the evidence a few moments later.

  • Cesare Prandelli isn't a bad coach, not by any means. Two years after Italy were embarrassed at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he had the Azzurri in the Euro final. But it was clear over the last nine months or so that the progress he had made his first two years wasn't going forward hadn't continued much at all. Too much tinkering, too much drama when it came to selecting his squad.

  • Mario Balotelli from the England win, where'd you go? Prandelli put as much faith in Balotelli as any manager can, and it came back to bite him flush on the ass. Maybe even worse than Suárez on Chiellini's shoulder.

  • Please don't let this be the last World Cup for Gigi Buffon. Not the way he has played post-2010 World Cup meltdown. He doesn't deserve any more group-stage exits.

  • If there ever was a time to reevaluate the way Italy handles its young players, it's now. This team and the country as a whole is in transition. Serie A is behind the ball compared to other leagues. We see other leagues and countries like Germany, Spain or even Belgium rolling out extremely talented in the early to mid-20s right now and Italy is clearly lacking behind. Italy has talent, they just need to figure out what the hell to do with it — fast.

  • One of those youngsters Italy will — and should — be building around, midfielder Marco Verratti, was easily one of Italy's best players against Uruguay. Unfortunate he had to come off the field injured, but Verratti as great while he was on the field.

  • Beppe Marotta, sign Matteo Darmian this summer. That'd be really cool.

  • Closing thought: /grumble/

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