|Uruguay beats Italy to advance; Greece late winner|
|Tuesday, June 24, 2014 8:04 PM|
Underscoring a power shift away from Europe, Uruguay fought — and apparently even bit — its way to a 1-0 victory over Italy Tuesday to move to the World Cup’s next round with Costa Rica, which sent England home without a single victory after a goalless draw.
South America’s strength was further highlighted when Colombia capped its perfect record in Group C with a 4-1 win over Japan. Europe did get one team through when Greece converted an injury time penalty for a 2-1 victory over Ivory Coast which eliminated the African team.
The evening excitement though could hardly match yet another controversy to haunt Uruguay striker Luis Suarez. Around 80 minutes in, Suarez and Giorgio Chiellini tangled, with replays showing Suarez seemingly biting the shoulder of the Italian defender. It would make Suarez, amazingly, a triple carnivorous offender on the pitch in four years.
“It was absolutely clear. There’s even a mark,” Chiellini said.
The referee didn’t see a bite and no foul was called. Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez only had eyes on the result.
“For me — and for all the people in Uruguay — we had more important things,” he said.
About a minute later, the decisive goal was scored on a powerful header from captain Diego Godin. Italy was down to 10 men since the 59th minute, when Claudio Marchisio received a red card for putting his boot into Egidio Arevalo’s knee.
It was the second straight time that Italy, a 4-time champion, went out in the first round.
“When you’re coming off two defeats without even scoring a goal, we clearly also have to take our share of that blame,” said goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who played on his fifth World Cup squad.
After the game, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli immediately resigned.
The draw against England gave Costa Rica, the surprise team of the competition, first place in Group D over three former champions and gutted more of the European contingent at the tournament.
The Central Americans reached the second round in 1990. But this time they did it as group winner, beating top-rate opposition.
And after an opening loss to Costa Rica, Uruguay recovered with two victories to keep its tournament alive, four years after a surprising run to the semifinals.
After beating England with two great goals to start the comeback, Suarez turned into the villain on Tuesday. The mercurial forward had already been banned twice for biting over the past four years, once in the Netherlands and once in England. FIFA can sanction players for biting with bans of up to two years.
Uruguay will now play Colombia in an all-South American encounter, with Costa Rica taking on Greece. If anyone had said before the World Cup that either Greece or Costa Rica would be a quarterfinalist, there would have been precious few believers.
But beyond goals, it also takes upsets like the runs of Costa Rica and Greece to make a World Cup truly great. And with each passing day, the 2014 edition is drawing nearer.
After Spain already landed back home after a disastrous defense of its title, Tuesday was also the day to wave England out and not even with a victory. It lost its first two games and also failed to deflate an ebullient Costa Rica in a 0-0 draw. The English created several chances but the end result was another bitter setback.
“We are so disappointed not to finish with a victory but I don’t think I have asked for a much better performance,” said coach Roy Hodgson.
Bradley faces high expectations at World Cup
SAO PAULO — Michael Bradley stuck out his right foot to meet Fabian Johnson’s pass, ready to slot the ball into the empty net from 6 yards out. Surely this would be a goal.
Then the ball struck Portuguese defender Ricardo Costa on a knee in front of the goal line and ricocheted away. Bradley stopped at a post, put a hand on each cheek and closed his eyes in shock, as if he had seen a ghost.
It’s been that type of World Cup for the U.S midfielder.
His night would get even worse when he was stripped of the ball late in stoppage time, leading to Portugal’s tying goal in Sunday night’s 2-2 draw.
The U.S. may need at least a tie Thursday against 3-time champion Germany to reach the knockout stage of consecutive World Cups for the first time and keep the record number of fans tuned in back home. Teammates count on Bradley’s end-to-end play both to drive the attack and stiffen their defense.
Bradley ran 13,922 yards (12,730 meters) against Ghana and 13,346 (12,204) versus Portugal, according to FIFA. Among players with two games, only Australia’s Matt McKay covered more.
Much has been expected of Bradley ever since he trained with the national team for the first time before the 2006 World Cup, when coach Bruce Arena gave the then-18-year-old his national team debut against Venezuela.
He became a regular during the next 4-year cycle when his dad, Bob Bradley, took over as coach. And by the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he had transformed into one of the top American players, part of the spine along with Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard. He scored the tying goal against Slovenia, helping the Americans reach the second round.
But in this year’s opener against Ghana, he had little impact in the match when compared with his past performances. That was despite completing 42 out of 56 passes, both team highs.
He was far more dominant against Portugal, again leading the U.S. with 65 completed passes and 75 attempts.
“Michael is undoubtedly one of our key players,” said Jurgen Klinsmann, who succeeded the elder Bradley three years ago. “He has an engine that’s unbelievable. He’s covering up for other players all over the place. His vision and his passing is just outstanding. Here and there it’s not going to be a perfect game.”
Bradley’s final moments against Portugal were especially frustrating. Eder shoved him off the ball, stole it and made a short pass to Nani, who sent it up the field and wide to Cristiano Ronaldo. The world player of the year sent a 25-yard cross into the box, which was headed by Varela past Howard with about 30 seconds left in five minutes of stoppage time, preventing the U.S. from clinching advancement with a game to spare.