Day 13 at FIFA World Cup saw lady luck smiling on Uruguay and Greece while Colombia and Costa Rica consolidated their status as early entrants to the knock-out phase. The worst fate beckoned on Italy, who just needed a draw from their match against Uruguay but ended up losing narrowly. Greece was another lucky team in stealing the match from their Group C rivals Ivory Coast and walk into the round of 16. England, who has had a wretched World Cup, failed at the last stop too, when they couldn’t beat Costa Rica in a match that ended goalless.
Italy’s Coach Prandelli became the first causality after Italy exited the World Cup 2014. Prandelli said his resignation was irrevocable and he owned full responsibility for the team’s disastrous performance. For the crunch game, Italy faced Uruguay at Dunas Arena in Natal and all they required was a draw. For Uruguay, however, it was a must-win match. In a racy game, both sides held the ball for some period and lost it repeatedly. Lot of energy was spent in running by players, without any of it adding to purposeful contributions. The game tended to become rash after interval and Italy played with 10 men, when Claudio Marchisio was red-carded.
Italy played well in the first half but Prandelli’s move of deploying a 3-5-2 was aimed largely towards fortifying the defense. Of course, the coach also had the attacking options on both flanks with Matteo Darmian and Mattia De Sciglio. In addition, the forward line also had Ciro Immobile and Mario Balotelli but despite a few attacking moves, the Azzurri’s forwards couldn’t find the target. Uruguay, on the other hand, played with the 4-4-2 line-up and had a chance, when a rocket-like Suarez free-kick was hastily punched away by Italian goalkeeper Buffon. There were two more vicious attempts on Italian goal before the break, in which Buffon made creditable saves. The first came from Suarez on Buffon’s left and in the next, the keeper denied a follow-up by Nicolas Lodeiro. When Prandelli replaced Balotelli with midfielder Parolo at half-time, it confirmed that Italians were more intent on forcing a draw rather than create any scoring opportunities. Just when Prandelli thought that his tactics were paying off, Godin rose amongst too many players and used his shoulder to send a high ball into the goal from a redirected corner in the 81st minute. Just before the goal, Suarez committed another of his famous biting offence, when he apparently sunk his teeth on Ciorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. This was the third time in his football career that Suarez has done that and his earlier victims were; Othman Bakkan and Branislav Ivanovic. As Chiellini showed teeth marks the Italians appealed vociferously to mete punishment to Suarez. The Uruguayan however got away with it and Italy ended their World Cup campaign on a sad note.
In another miracle match on Tuesday at Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza, Greece beat Ivory Coast to enter the round of 16 through a controversial penalty in the dying seconds. But for Greece, just the victory was not enough. They depended on the result of the Japan-Colombia match in which Japan’s defeat or a draw would make way for Greece. The Greeks scored their first goal in the 42nd minute. But they made an error by allowing Ivory Coast forwards Gervinho and Wilfried Bony in their penalty area in the 74th minute and Bony scored to dash Greece’s hopes as the 1-1 draw was not enough for Greece. As the Greeks resigned to their fate, a golden opportunity came their way in the closing moments. Giovanni Sio brought down Samaras in the box and Greece got a penalty and Samaras’ shot sent the Ivory Coast goalie the wrong way to make it 2-1 for Greece. Since Colombia had outplayed Japan, Greece marched into the play-off phase.
In the match between Japan and Colombia, Japan needed a win but they began with conceding a penalty. The 1-0 lead continued until Japan managed to equalize in the 45th minute. But in the 55th minute, Jackson Martinez put Colombia ahead once again, when he got a nice cross from James Rodriguez and fired low to the left of the Japanese goalkeeper. Martinez made it 3-1 for Colombia in the 83rd minute and in the dying seconds Rodriguez scored Colombia’s fourth goal. More than the Colombians, the victory helped Greece’s entry into the play-offs
In an inconsequential match on Tuesday, the Costa Rica and England played out a goalless draw. The Costa Ricans were already in the play-off stage but for England it was the end of a disappointing World Cup campaign.
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