Italy were dumped out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil on Tuesday in Natal, as Uruguay won 1-0 to see themselves through to the last 16 in place of the Azzurri.
A late Diego Godin header was enough for La Celeste—who had to win the game—to make the knockout rounds after losing to Costa Rica and beating England.
Mario Balotelli—Italy's star striker who bagged the crucial goal in defeating England—was not looking at his sharpest for the majority of the first half.
He went down early on, apparently injured, although sportswriter Tariq Panja was less than convinced about the validity of the AC Milan man's complaints:
Balotelli got back up again, but he continued to show less than impressive touches and football journalist Siavoush Fallahi pithily summed things up:
The 23-year-old—so often impressive in an Italy shirt—was ineffective in a dirty encounter against the Uruguayans, the Irish Times' Ken Early offering a damning appraisal:
Inevitably, a frustrated Balotelli eventually snapped and picked up a silly yellow card for a very high challenge on Alvaro Pereira, per The Independent:
The Associated Press' Graham Dunbar offered an appraisal of how the Uruguay defender may be affected in the coming days:
The final ignominy for Balotelli was being substituted at half-time by Cesare Prandelli, per ESPN FC, fully deserved as far as the Daily Mail's Ian Ladyman was concerned:
However, the BBC's Ben Smith offered an alternative reason:
Italy's pass-master Andrea Pirlo had a much better game than his young teammate, setting up in the centre of midfield alongside Marco Verratti, per ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan:
However, he was not given much space in which to move as he was marshalled throughout by Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani, per The Guardian's Paolo Bandini:
Indeed the pair swapped shirts at half-time rather than the traditional post-match attire switch, per the Daily Mail:
Sports columnist Jack Todd praised the veteran's superb talent while highlighting his class against much of his teammates' play-acting:
However, despite the 35-year-old's presence, Italy could not summon anything and the great man has no doubt played his final World Cup encounter.
A poor early exit it was in the end from Italy, their opening win against England—so heavily influenced by both Pirlo and Balotelli—should have pushed them on to maybe even top the group.
But they were poor in a loss to Costa Rica and overly negative as they played for the draw against Uruguay.
They will now have to rebuild after their exit and, especially with the departure of Pirlo, it could be a long process.
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