Thursday, 24 June 2010

[WC2010] Slovakia 3-2 Italy

Holders Italy crashed out of the FIFA World Cup in the group stage for the first time since 1974 as Slovakia claimed a last-16 place with a shock 3-2 victory in Johannesburg.

Having been held to disappointing draws by Paraguay and minnows New Zealand in their opening two Group F games, the Azzurri needed a win to guarantee progression to the next round, although a draw would've done at the end.

Robert Vittek scored in each half to spearhead Slovakia's success but a gripping finale saw Antonio Di Natale and Fabio Quagliarella score either side of Kamil Kopunek's effort. An Italian equaliser would have sent the reigning champions through at the expense of the finals debutants.

The pattern of the first half was set after only six minutes when Napoli's Marek Hamsik escaped the attentions of the Italy rearguard only to shank his effort but the following Azzurri lapse proved more costly.

Daniele De Rossi lost the ball to Hamsik, who slid a pass through to Vittek and the striker drove his finish across Federico Marchetti into the bottom corner.

Marcello Lippi's men were lacking cohesion and the closest they came to levelling in the first half was an errant header just over his own bar by Martin Skrtel.

A buoyant Slovakia could have moved further ahead either side of that incident, Zdeno Strba's fierce shot from distance tipped away by Marchetti while Juraj Kucka's stunning 25-metre volley found the side-netting on the stroke of half-time.

Italy introduced Christian Maggio, Fabio Quagliarella and Andrea Pirlo, and poured forward after the break, with Skrtel stooping to block on the line with a knee from Quagliarella's thumping strike.

However, Slovakia caught them on the hop on 73 minutes as Hamsik crossed for Vittek to steal a march on Giorgio Chiellini and flick in his second goal.

Italy rallied again, and Di Natale tapped in after 81 minutes only for substitute Kopunek to latch on to a long throw and lob Marchetti with a minute to play.

There was still time for Quagliarella, who had an earlier strike at 2-1 ruled out for offside, to chip Jan Mucha to make it 3-2 but an equaliser proved elusive, meaning the two finalists from the previous World Cup – Italy and France – failed to navigate the group stage of the following tournament for the first time in World Cup history.

Source: UEFA

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