Natal, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Diego Godin nodded Uruguay into the knockout round, scoring on an 81st-minute header to give his nation a 1-0 victory over 10-man Italy at the Estadio das Dunas on Tuesday.
Italy, which needed just a draw to advance, was reduced to 10 men when Claudio Marchisio was issued a straight red card for a dangerous challenge on Egidio Arevalo in the 59th minute.
Uruguay eventually took advantage of the extra man as Godin turned in a corner kick from Gaston Ramirez nine minutes from time.
The goal did not come without controversy as Luis Suarez appeared to bite Giorgio Chiellini just one minute before the breakthrough.
But the incident went unseen and Uruguay closed out the match at full strength to secure a second-place finish in Group D, likely setting up a meeting with Colombia in the round of 16 on Saturday.
"We tried to play our very best football against a side who always looked to be our most difficult opponents, which they were," Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said after the match. "We changed the way we played in response to the team facing us: an Italy side with a lot of quality in midfield and which lined up with two strikers, unlike the first two matches. We managed to adapt to the situation when Marchisio was sent off, and we tried to spend more time in their half. Luckily for us, it paid off."
Italy's best chance of the opening period came in the 13th minute when Andrea Pirlo sent a dipping free kick toward goal. Fernando Muslera produced an awkward save on the attempt but managed to push the shot over the crossbar.
Gianluigi Buffon was tested at the other end in the 33rd minute when Suarez got through on goal and attempted to square a pass to the top of the six-yard box, but the Juventus goalkeeper managed to deflect the delivery and make a stop on the rebound.
The match turned in Uruguay's favor just before the hour mark when Marchisio committed a rash challenge on Arevalo, leading with his studs and making contact just below the Uruguay midfielder's knee. The Juventus man was shown a red card to give the South American nation a clear edge.
Suarez nearly capitalized shortly after as he collected a loose ball at the top of the penalty area before squirting through the Italian defense and firing a shot on goal, but Buffon was equal to the task, parrying the attempt to safety.
Controversy struck in the dying stages when Chiellini, who was tracking back in his own penalty area, was approached by Suarez from behind. The Uruguayan striker leaned over and appeared to gnaw on the shoulder of the Italian defender, but the episode went unnoticed by referee Marco Rodriguez, even after Chiellini pulled down the sleeve of his jersey to parade the bite marks.
Uruguay earned a corner kick just one minute later and capitalized on the flustered Italian defense as Godin rose high to meet Ramirez's delivery and send his header underneath a diving Buffon.
It proved to be the only strike of the match as Uruguay clung to its lead to collect its second win of the group stage, putting the nation one point back of first-place Costa Rica.
Italy finishes third in Group D after winning its opening match against England but suffering defeat to Costa Rica in its second contest.
"It was an even game when it was 11 against 11, with both sides challenging for possession and us creating chances to go through," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said following the contest. "It was a good match but unfortunately for us Marchisio's sending-off influenced the rest of the game. I spoke to the heads of the Italian FA afterwards and I told them I'm resigning. We've come up short in technical terms and I'm the one who's responsible for that."