If you can’t tell, I love the game of soccer. But had today’s Italy-Uruguay match been the first game I’d ever watched, I’d never watch the sport again. For the match showcased everything wrong with soccer. There were lunatic assistant coaches fighting on the sidelines. There were first half tactics from Uruguay that included little other than riling up Mario Balotelli in hope that he’d do something stupid, and on the other side the tactics were hardly more sophisticated than simple time-wasting. There were a billion fouls. There were an equal number of flops. And best of all, the game’s superstar had a relapse into his cannibalistic past.
I somehow managed to avoid hearing the score of this game until I got home late this afternoon. I’d been eagerly awaiting watching this particular match for almost a week now. But frankly, I wish I hadn’t watched it. Two weeks ago, I would have told you I was a fan of Italy and Uruguay – that I loved Cesare Prandelli as a coach and that I respected Luis Suarez as a player if not as a person. Now, none of that is true.
That Italy came out with such negative tactics should not have been a surprise given the country’s footballing tradition, but I expected Cesare Prandelli to dare to be different, showing everyone that his Italy side was separate from past ones. I was wrong unfortunately, and we all had to watch Italian players commit foul after foul, only to writhe in pain on the ground when the slightest touch went against them. Their game-plan was clear. If the ball was in the referee’s hand and not on the ground, Uruguay couldn’t score. They were Italy circa 2006 – the team I grew up hating.
Uruguay seemed fine with that type of fight in the first half, knowing they could get under Balotelli’s skin and potentially cause him to lash out. A red card from Italy would allow them a way into the game. While Balotelli managed to leave the first half with only a yellow card, Uruguay’s tactics worked when Super Mario was taken off the field at half. Gone was Italy’s lone goalscoring threat today, as Ciro Immobile looked out of his element. And just when you thought Uruguay was done baiting the Italians into aggressive fouls, Claudio Marchisio went straight over the ball – a clear straight red. Uruguay in the end got what they wanted.
But Italy held strong even with ten men and kept doing their thing. Foul after foul, embellishment after embellishment. It was rather unpleasant to watch, especially every time Giorgio Chiellini writhed on the ground. And then Luis Suarez did his thing in retribution for Chiellini’s acting. No, he didn’t score. He bit him. Yes, Suarez bit someone. Again. How can this ever happen three times? I will never respect that man again. This is Suarez’s third strike. He can forever be a villain now. For he is certainly no hero any longer.
While Diego Godin’s winning header was an exciting moment for the defender and for his country, I hardly cared who won the game at that point. Both sides had made me hate them with the way they went about this crucial game. I feel for Gigi Buffon, who deserved a better exit than this, but his Italy did themselves no favors with the way they played today. If you play the style they did, you deserve to lose in my opinion.
Lastly, a quick point about Balotelli. He obviously is immensely talented and his goalscoring ability would be a welcome addition at Arsenal. But games like this one – where he must be taken off for fear of him doing something stupid – show how much he still needs to mature. I’d want him at Arsenal for sure, but much like Roberto Mancini in Balotelli’s Manchester City days, I don’t know if I’d trust Mario in certain matches. He is inherently flammable on the pitch, and his self-destruct button could spell an ugly time for any team that invests too much faith in his supposed new-found tranquility.
Unfortunately, as I choose to watch this game when I got home, I missed the Ivory Coast-Greece match, which shocked me when I saw the score. I can’t believe the Ivorians had such a big let down. For all of our sakes, let’s forget about Suarez and Italy for a while and get back to enjoying this wonderful tournament that surprises us at every turn.