How the mighty are falling. At least some of the mighty, anyway.
Alongside defending champions Spain, European soccer powers England and Italy found themselves packing up Tuesday evening, eliminated from the 2014 World Cup after Italy fell to Uruguay 1-0 while the Three Lions played out a 0-0 draw with Costa Rica.
England’s chances of advancing to the round of 16 were formally brought to zero after Costa Rica topped Italy four days ago.
Few odds-makers would have bet on an early group-stage exit for all three soccer heavyweights when the global sporting spectacle kicked off June 12.
But with round-robin play finished for half of the 32-team field, bettors may be realigning their positions to reflect an overarching trend to emerge in sweltering Brazil so far: Central and South American teams are doing exceptionally well, while many clubs from other regions have suffered disappointing results.
A slew of teams pegged for advancement into the knockout stage, which starts June 28, sit on the outside looking in.
Croatia is gone. Russia and Portugal could well see their fates sealed on Thursday unless each pull off victories.
All of the above nations were considered by some savvy types to be good bets if not shoo-ins to move beyond the group stage.
Meanwhile, half the field in the next round could very well be sides whose countries are located south of the United States. And a majority of second-round opponents could hail from the Americas if a surprisingly good U.S. side manages to advance.
Italy’s 2014 run was snapped short Tuesday by the jaws of Uruguay’s Luis Suarez.
In perhaps the most bizarre play of the World Cup so far, Uruguay’s star forward appeared to latch his mandibles to Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini shoulder in the moments before the South American team scored the only goal of the game.
That allowed Uruguay to advance, while Italy becomes the latest European power ousted from the 2014 tournament.
The incident, replayed ad nauseaum on television and in online snippets, shows Suarez — already a two-time offender for biting an opponent in Europe’s pro leagues — go Count Dracula on the Italian defender as the pair collided and fell to the ground in Italy’s penalty area. Chiellini immediately pulled his shirt down to show the officials what appear to be bite marks, though no call was made.
A minute later, Uruguay scored.