As Italy and Uruguay got underway at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano, it was not long before the respective mindsets of these two Group F combatants became all too evident. With Uruguay able to qualify with a draw and already-qualified Italy looking content to minimise errors rather than to be creative up front, the stage was set for 90 minutes that were to be marked by rather restrained tactics, rather than reckless abandon.
Uruguay was the first to threaten after twelve minutes, with Sebastián Gallegos advancing on the left and producing a hard shot from 25 metres that goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to save.
The Italians looked sharp with twenty minutes played thanks to their quick midfield, but it was Gallegos who had the next chance to try his luck, this time from a free-kick just outside of the area. His shot was heading toward the corner before it was turned away by the Italians' wall. Eight minutes later, Italy were awarded a free-kick of their own and put Federico Carraro to the task, but his shot did not trouble Salvador Ichazo.
Italy had another opportunity eleven minutes before the end of the first half. It came from a cross into the area, with Pietro Iemmello doing well to control the ball and pick out Alessando de Vitis to his right. Though alone, De Vitis was able to muster nothing more than a soft shot that landed gently in the goalkeeper's waiting hands.
Little changed after the restart. Uruguay were again in the driver's seat at the outset, with Nicolás Prieto and Gallegos having much of the possession, but lacking the pace or creativity to outwit Italy's solid defense.
The Europeans seemed content as ever to be patient as Uruguay moved the ball around the perimeter and, in the rare instances in which the ball fell to Italy, they sent hopeful long passes to their forwards. Their attacks, though, bore no fruit as as the usually outnumbered forwards became easy prey and were dispossessed.
As the minutes ticked away, it seemed clear that both teams were comfortable with the status-quo. Neither took many risks and, in the end, both got what they seemed to have come for: Italy - their place at the top of the group; and Uruguay - a coveted spot in the knockout stages.