Friday, 25 June 2010

[WC2010] Italian press laments 'darkest day'

Italy this morning mourned the humbling of what was described as its worst ever national team after the holders lost 3-2 to Slovakia to bow out of the World Cup at the bottom of Group F.

"Azzurri, shame and tears," read the front page of Rome-based daily La Repubblica, as the Italian media laid into coach Marcello Lippi's winless side with the same zeal with which they had celebrated them four years ago after their triumph in Germany.

"Everything is black," said the main headline of La Gazzetta dello Sport. "The worst ever Italy are out."

"It was the darkest and most terrible day in the history of Italian football," said La Gazzetta's editorial next to a photo of captain Fabio Cannavaro consoling Fabio Quagliarella, one of Italy's scorers in yesterday's match in Johannesburg.

The defeat, which came after dire 1-1 draws with Paraguay and New Zealand, was frequently branded as worse than the Azzurri's most humiliating previous defeat, a 1-0 loss to North Korea at the 1966 World Cup.

"Shame! Slovakia throw us out 3-2," read the front page of the Corriere dello Sport. "Italy were unwatchable. Lippi, the players and the FIGC are to blame. Last and without a win - it had never happened before."

The Corriere della Sera described the humiliating exit as a "shameful farewell to the World Cup," while La Stampa wrote: "Azzurri: Ridiculous. Out without excuses."

Most of the public and media fire was directed at Lippi, who will now be replaced by former Fiorentina boss Cesare Prandelli after announcing before the tournament that he would step down no matter how it went in South Africa.

The main criticism regarded his misplaced faith in several veterans from his 2006 squad who were clearly past their prime, with hapless 36-year-old captain Fabio Cannavaro the clearest example.

Pundits also picked on him for fielding players out of position, while many fans were miffed he did not call up talented but temperamental strikers Antonio Cassano of Sampdoria and Inter teen Mario Balotelli.

Lippi took the criticism on the chin after the Slovakia debacle, assuming "total responsibility" for a team that "had terror in their heart, head and legs".

But his extended post-match confession on Thursday night of bad preparation of the team, which critics had repeatedly told him was too old and slow, did little to soften the criticism.

"Lippi has bared his chest but he is leaving, we knew this already," wrote Andrea Monti in La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Turin-based Tuttosport compared the team to mozzarella cheese, and blamed one man for the elimination: "Lippi, it's your fault!"

Others did not spare the players or the Italian football officials, who are coming back home on Saturday and face likely protests from fans.

Source: AFP

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