JOHANNESBURG - Holders Italy made a
humiliating exit in the World Cup group stage when they lost 3-2
to Slovakia on Thursday having been largely outplayed.
Slovakia's win put them through to
the second round as Group
F runners-up to Paraguay who drew 0-0 with New Zealand. Italy
finished bottom of the section with just two points.
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Slovakia striker Robert Vittek
scored after 25 and 73
minutes and Kamil Kopunek added a third in the 89th for the
World Cup debutants at a stunned Ellis Park, where Italian flags
stopped waving almost from the start.
Antonio Di Natale and Fabio
Quagliarella scored late on for
Italy but the group favourites were always chasing the game.
"I take all responsibility, all
responsibility for what
happened," said Italy coach Marcello Lippi.
"If a team turns up at such an
important game like tonight
with terror in their heart and their legs and is unable to
express its ability it's because the coach didn't train the team
as he should."
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overjoyed goalscorer Vittek told a news
conference: "It's a huge success. We've moved the limits of
Slovak football. We couldn't have dreamt about this."
"Of course, we didn't expect such
domination. We were better
during the match. We played with our hearts and that's what
decided the match today," he added.
Slovakia, who made four changes to
boost their attacking
options given they had to win to have any hope of qualification,
started brightly and showed a speed of movement which Italy have
severely lacked all tournament.
The Azzurri drew 1-1 with Paraguay
and New Zealand in
earlier lacklustre displays and more sloppiness led to
De Rossi gave the ball away and Slovakia attacked
straight at the heart of Italy's wide open defence. Juraj Kucka
played the ball through for a falling Vittek to score from the
edge of the box beyond the reach of keeper Federico Marchetti.
Vittek netted his second at the
near post from close range
and, after Di Natale pulled one back for Italy after 81 minutes,
substitute Kopunek grabbed a third for Slovakia.
Quagliarella made it 3-2 with a
delightful long-range chip
over Jan Mucha but it was too late for the Italians.
With France also going out at the
group stage, it is the
first time the two finalists from the previous tournament have
failed to make the knockout round.
The amazing defeat brought an
abrupt end to Lippi's time as
Italy coach and the international careers of captain Fabio
Cannavaro and midfielder Gennaro Gattuso after the trio said
this would be their last tournament with the national side.
Italy's best chance in the first
half came when Slovakia's
Martin Skrtel headed narrowly over his own bar, a mark of how
poor Italy have been in South Africa, while Skrtel cleared
Quagliarella's shot off the line in the second period.
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