Arrivederci to the Azzurri

June 24th, 2010

Don’t get us wrong…we’re not quite ready to throw out all Azzurri paraphanaelia…just yet. But this match was absolutely horrendous, by all counts.

In what can only be described as the best match of the South African FIFA World Cup 2010, defending World Cup champions Italy were sent home after conceding a 3-2 loss to Slovakia.

Bookies around the world must be celebrating as the odds that Italy would defeat Slovakia were clearly in their favour – on the other hand, those who had bet thousands or hundreds of thousands on the Italians must be feeling the pain of the Azzurri’s loss.

Just one goal shy of a hat-trick, Slovakia’s Robert Vittek put Slovakia ahead in the 25th minute of the match and by the 73rd minute, had increased the gap between both teams by 2-0.

Italy’s first goal came at the eleventh hour – so to speak – courtesy of Antonio di Natale in the 81st minute but the elation and hope in the hearts of the Azzurri were snuffed out eight minutes later thanks to Kamil Kopunek’s goal. This in spite of Fabio Quagliarella’s goal during injury time.

As reigning world champions, the confidence expected from the Italians was understandably nowhere to be seen as they limped like a wounded animal  behind Slovakia.

As the Associated Press says, Italy’s loss has “…marked the end of an era for Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro and Gennaro Gattuso, who already announced their retirement from the national team after the tournament. Coach Marcello Lippi is also moving on, with Cesare Prandelli already chosen as his successor.”

The results of today’s match have no doubt left football fans around the world puzzled – not only was Italy’s loss unexpected, but prior to today’s loss,  neither the Azzurri  nor the French (both previous World Cup finalists) have failed to advance to the final 16.

At the end of this highly-emotional and dramatic match, there were tears on both sides of the field – the Slovaks, overjoyed and celebrating at their performance in the World Cup – their first since being recognized as an independent nation. The Italians, however, were despondent and – understandably – confused as to how the match managed to end the way it did.

The Italian team for this World Cup seem to lack the creativity, flair and composure under pressure their predecessors were gifted with. This has been evident in their concession to early goals in both the New Zealand and Paraguay matches.

What happens next? Paraguay and Slovakia advance as winner and runner-up respectively of Group F with the Slovaks playing the winner of Group E next week Monday and Paraguay playing the runner-up for Group E the next day – Tuesday June 29. Both matches will be at 9:00am EST – see you then!

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