Uruguay skipper Diego Godin scored to send Italy crashing out of the World Cup Tuesday but the South Americans’ striker Luis Suarez faced a new biting storm.
Costa Rica’s drab 0-0 draw with England ensured that the Central Americans finished top of Group D.
Uruguay beat Italy 1-0 in the tense match in which the Europeans ended with 10-men and left the World Cup at the group phase for the second time in succession.
But amid the celebrations, immediate attention fell on a clash between Suarez and Italian defender Ciorgio Chiellini, who showed teeth marks in his shoulder after.
Television replays showed Suarez – who has twice been sanctioned for biting players – appearing to attempt to sink his teeth into Chiellini’s shoulder in an off-the-ball incident.
Chiellini was in no doubt Suarez – who was seen sitting on the ground feeling his teeth after the incident – had bitten him.
“He bit me it’s clear I still have the mark,” said an aggrieved Chiellini.
Italy won the 2006 World Cup, then failed to reach the last 16 in South Africa four years ago. They required only a draw against Uruguay at Estadio das Dunas in Natal to go through this time.
However, the Azzurri suffered a critical blow early in the second half when Claudio Marchisio was sent off for a studs-up challenge.
Soon after the Suarez-Chiellini incident, Godin rose in a crowded box and the ball rebounded off his shoulder to beat Buffon in the 81st minute.
Uruguay’s win means they leapfrog Italy to join Costa Rica in the last 16 of the tournament.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli deployed a 3-5-2 designed to tighten the Azzurri defense and give them attacking options on the wings with Matteo Darmian and Mattia De Sciglio.
But despite a solid display in a scoreless first-half, the Azzurri’s hunt for goals – led by Ciro Immobile and Mario Balotelli – reaped no reward.
On the half hour Marco Veratti dispossessed Cavani to launch Balotelli but the striker failed to release as Immobile ran through into an offside position.
Minutes later Andrea Pirlo’s smart short pass found De Sciglio on the left but the wingback’s pinpoint delivery to unmarked Immobile was volleyed off target.
Italy were composed, but minutes before halftime Buffon had to make two critical saves to keep the score sheet clean, first stopping Suarez’s snap-shot down low with his left arm and then denying Nicolas Lodeiro from the follow-up.
Prandelli replaced Balotelli with midfielder Parolo at halftime, a tactical switch that suggested the Azzurri would happily hold on for the scoreless draw.
On 58 minutes Cristian Rodriguez sent a great chance wide of the target after a smart one-two with Suarez on the left flank.
Moments later, Marchisio was given his marching orders for his challenge on Egidio Arevalo.
The decision had the expected impact, and after Suarez burst through confidently on 65 minutes Buffon had to get down low to block with his arm.
Italy were still finding space, though, and a Pirlo through ball found Immobile only for the striker to be charged down as he was about to pull the trigger.
Prandelli replaced Immobile with Cassano, but despite Italy again finding opportunities on the counter Uruguay’s insistence deep in Italian territory finally paid off.
The hosts gave away a corner, which Godin met with conviction to leave Buffon with no chance.
Italy rallied in desperation in the dying minutes, when Buffon ran up the field to leave his net empty, but to no avail.