It all comes down to this, folks. In order to advance, Uruguay have to beat Italy, a four-time former World Champion (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2002) who are generally considered one of Europe’s best teams. Both teams sit at three points, but because of goal differential, Uruguay must win to advance. If they lose, or even tie, they’re out on their behinds and on the first bus back to Montevideo. Can Uruguay survive?
It’s hard to say what La Celeste can do in this matchup. Against Costa Rica, the four-time world champions (1924, 1928a, 1930, 1950) played like the Walking Dead All-Stars, eating brains for 90 excruciating minutes in a shocking 3-1 loss. Edinson Cavani once again seemed to feel the pressure of the sky blue jersey on his back, missing chance after chance to get Uruguay back in the game (at least he hit the penalty shot for Uruguay’s only goal).
Against England, a few lineup changes by Óscar Tabárez invigorated the squad. Nicolás Lodeiro moved the ball well in the midfield, while José María Giménez and Álvaro Pereira played near spotlessly to tighten up a defense that looked vulnerable against the Ticos. Oh, did I mention Uruguay also got Luis Suárez back from his knee injury and he scored two goals in his first in-game action in nearly two months? Well, he did that, because he’s the King of Uruguay. With Suárez and the other new faces, Uruguay played infinitely better against the Three Lions (they looked more like kitty cats to me) and took home a 2-1 win.
The Italians, meanwhile, also beat England 2-1. They were also just upset (1-0) by those damn Costa Ricans. Italy looked pretty good against England, but pretty bad against the Ticos (I have a feeling the Ticos are going to make a couple of more teams look bad before this tournament ends). Like Uruguay, Italy is known for tough, hard-nosed fútbol, and they play good defense. That’s all led by goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who, despite being a little older, is still at the top of his game. Up front, Uruguay has to be weary of Mario Balotelli, a much maligned striker who is one of the most talented in the world, but has had personality problems hold him back throughout his career. Wait, are we still talking about Italy? These teams are more similar than I thought.
I know I’m a homer, but I think there are a few things that will help Uruguay in this game. For one, they have momentum on their side, especially as the legend of Luis Suárez continues to grow. After his performance against Engalnd, while not even yet at 100%, Italy will surely take extra care to stop him. That could open up the rest of the field for everyone else. He played that England game like a man possessed, and you get the feeling that he’s not going to be denied in this cup–a tournament that seems to be somewhat of a personal mission of his, with a goal of sticking it to his critics.
Italy, meanwhile, looked sluggish against Costa Rica, and have to dig themselves out of that hole to play well. Another big problem for the Italians is that Daniele De Rossi might not be available. The superstar midfielder is dealing with a soleus muscle (claf area) injury, and might need a few days of rest to heal. The Italians already lost Riccardo Montolivo (no, not the guy from Fantasy Island) to a broken leg in a warmup friendly before the tournament began, so they might have trouble getting the ball to Balotelli up front. It’s going to be tough for him to score without some help.
All that being said, Italy can still get by with a draw. They are good enough to draw, or even win, without De Rossi and Montolivo. I think Suárez will have to put this team on his back again if Uruguay are to win. It might take another two goals from the Liverpool striker for the team to move on. It’s a tough call for me. I want to say that Uruguay will move on, but it all depends on which Uruguay takes the field on Tuesday. If it’s the team that played Costa Rica, everyone pack your bags. If the team that beat England walks onto the pitch behind Suárez, it’s hard to pick against them.
I don’t want to jinx anything, so I’m going with the cop out answer: We’ll have to see on Tuesday. Either way, a former four-time world champion is going home.
Featured image courtesy of: Getty Images
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