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Shock win for Slovakia sends holders Italy out

In the most exciting game so far Slovakia made history by sending the holders  and four times world champions, Italy out of the World Cup. Italy astonishingly finished bottom of their group whilst Vladmir Weiss’ brave men go through second with Paraguay in Group F. In a thrilling 3-2 encounter Slovakia shocked the world by beating 2006 winners Italy with two goals from Vittek and a debut goal for Kopunek whilst goals from impact substitute Quagliarella and Di Natale served as mere consolation. The goalless draw between Paraguay and New Zealand meant the Azzurri and All White’s went out of the world cup.

 

Italy started the game with a long range attempt from Udinese striker Di Natale firing wide and Iaquinta’s was involved in a one-two that gave him a shot on goal, but he was brought back for offside. The pressure from Italy early on was not consistent throughout the match and Slovakia battled back to dominate the rest of the half.

The first good chance of the game fell to Marek Hamsik who scuffed a volley inside the box wide, the Slovakian captain was threatening again with a fantastic run followed by a ball across the box which was cut out by Italy’s stand in keeper Marchetti. Howard Webb refereed the game and gave the first yellow card of the game to Slovakian midfielder, Strba, who misses the next game through suspension for his late challenge on Gattuso.

Slovakia were enjoying much of the possession when Liverpool’s centre half Martin Skrtel had an adventurous run squandered in the box as the game reached the second quarter with still no goals.

Slovakia take the lead

 A wayward pass from De Rossi handed Slovakia a great chance to break and a rolled pass from Kucka put Vittek through on goal to score his second goal of the tournament. Vittek did brilliantly to put it past the keeper and Slovakia took the lead against all odds.

June 24, 2010 - Johannesburg, South Africa - epa02219984 Slovakia's Robert Vittek (C, facing) celebrates with his team mates after scoring the opening goal during the FIFA World Cup 2010 group F preliminary round match between Slovakia and Italy at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, 24 June 2010.

Italy’s captain Fabio Cannavaro received a yellow card for body checking Kucka and preventing a dangerous counter and minutes later the skipper escaped a miserable exit from international football by being let off lightly following his late challenge on Hamsik. Marchetti prevented Slovakia from doubling their lead with a magnificent save after Strba’s long range drive and the score line was flattering Italy. Italy once again gave the ball away but Hamsik’s ball across the box reached no-one, the Azzurri escaping giving away another goal unnececarily. Italy nearly grabbed a fortunate equaliser after Skrtel grazes the crossbar with a header, the Slovakian defender was in a muddle when the ball was played in and almost scored an own goal.

Strba suffered a nasty gash on his knee after Gattuso’s foot follows through in a challenge but after treatment is able to come back on prolonging Kopunek’s world cup debut to the second half. Just before the half time whistle Slovakia almost got another after Robert Vittek holds up play before setting up Kucka who spanks an audacious volley just wide of the left hand post.

Following half time Lippi made two changes bringing on Quagliarella for Gattuso and Maggio for Criscito hoping to inspire a more offensive performance in the second half. Italy got their first chance of the second half as Iaquinta’s glancing header went just wide of Mucha’s post who insisted on time wasting with simulation following a clash with Quagliarella. Lippi took a risk by using the last of his three subs in the 55th minute bringing on experienced play maker Pirlo for an unimpressive Montolivo who had a chance to work the keeper in the first half but rushed and put it wide.

Di Natale’s swivel following a great through ball didn’t pay off as he fired wide but worked the keeper minutes later with a curled shot which Mucha saved comfortably. Martin Skrtel who almost put the ball in his own net in the first half heroically cleared the ball off the line in the second with his knee following Quagliarella’s powerful volley from a tight angle. Speculation will be rife following the linesman’s controversial decision to disallow the goal claiming the ball didn’t cross the line.

Slovakia double their lead

Just after Stoch missed a chance to score after being given a lot of room and time, Slovakia scored a second goal and the impossible looked to be possible as Robert Vittek reacted quickest from Hamsik’s return ball to convert the chance. Poor defending of the corner allowed Hamsik to put the back across goal and the Slovakian striker tapped the ball past Marchetti with 73 minutes gone.

Italy get one back

Pepe’s desperate tackle reflected Italy’s performance and he was lucky to escape with just a yellow card, however Italian moods were soon to be lifted as Quagliarella showed great skill to cut the Slovak defence in two, utilising Iaquinta and shooting on goal. His shot forced a great save from Mucha but the parried save reached a grateful Di Natale who had the goal at his mercy and converted with ease. All hell broke loose following the goal and a scrap in the goalmouth provoked Howard Webb to issue the newly signed Everton keeper a yellow card after he prevented the Italians from getting the ball back quickly.

Everyone inside the Ellis Park stadium thought Italy had their equaliser, but the impressive assistant referee made the right call, flagging Quagliarella offide his goal as he stepped ahead of the defence.

Slovakia secure their win

With one minute of normal time remaining Slovakia took a quick throw-in and Kamil Kopunek, exploiting the hesitant defence reacted with lightening speed to lift the ball over an on-rushing Marchetti to surely seal Italy’s demise and Slovakia’s qualification from Group F.

June 24, 2010 - Johannesburg, South Africa - epa02219874 Slovakian soccer fans during the FIFA World Cup 2010 group F preliminary round match between Slovakia and Italy at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, 24 June 2010.

 

  

  

 

 

Quagliarella grabs a stunning consolation goal

Despite the Slovakian goal in the 89th minute, Italy battled on and their late efforts were rewarded after Quagliarella scored the goal of the match, astonishingly chipping Mucha in the 92nd minute to finish what was a truly brilliant game to watch.

Italy needed a win going into this game and were expected to get it as holders, however a brave Slovakian side put Marcelo Lippi’s ageing team out of the World Cup. After not winning any of the games of this tournament and going behind in every one of them Italy will face a lot of criticism but with so many players looking sluggish and complacent it’s no surprise they struggled. Weiss made four changes going into the game looking for a win and his bold tactics paid off. For a side from a country with a population of just over five million to progress to the last sixteen is remarkable.

 

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