Natal, Brazil (4E Sports) – Diego Godin scored in the 81st minute to lift Uruguay to a 1-0 win over Italy in their Monday’s Group D showdown and into the last 16 of the World Cup at Arenas das Dunas.
Meanwhile, Costa Rica clinched top spot in Group D with a scoreless draw against England, which was already eliminated from the tournament.
The Italians, who needed only a point to qualify alongside Costa Rica, were hampered by the 59th-minute dismissal of Claudio Marchisio, for a high tackle on Egidio Arevalo.
They will now be left to rue another first-round exit at the World Cup, their second in succession, while Uruguay awaits the winner of Group C in the next round.
However, the victory was overshadowed by controversy as Luis Suarez appeared to bite the shoulder of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini towards the end of the match.
The 27-year-old Suarez have been involved in biting incidents before at both Liverpool and Ajax. It remains to be seen whether Suarez will receive punishment for his apparent bite.
Football’s governing body — FIFA – will examine the footage of Suarez’s collision with Chiellini before making a decision.
Prior to the late drama, Italy looked set to do enough to shut out their opponents as they soaked up pressure with relative comfort.
The match began with a host of full-blooded challenges with Mario Balotelli suffering a limp after a heavy challenge while Suarez and Chiellini both on the receiving end of physical collisions.
The crowd had to wait until the 12th minute to see an effort on target, when Andrea Pirlo fired a dipping free-kick that Fernando Muslera needed to tip over, and the remainder of the opening half-hour passed by with little action of note.
Gianluigi Buffon was then called on to deny Suarez and Christian Lodeiro from close range following intricate build-up play, while Martin Caceres struck an audacious effort way wide from distance.
Marchisio was handed a straight red shortly after and Suarez was quick to test the 10 men of Italy – bursting through the defense only to be denied by Buffon.