Defending Champions Italy followed the footsteps of runners-up France to bow out of World Cup’10. Slovakia, in their maiden tournament, battled against all odds to come out triumphant and secured a berth in the knockout stages.
Marcelo Lippi made two changes to the squad that featured against Paraguay as Gennaro “Rhino” Guttoso and Di Natale replaced Claudio Marchisio and Alberto Gilardino in the starting line-up. Lippi’s decision to leave out a fit again Andrea Pirlo on the bench hurt them badly, as creativity in the middle was conspicuous by its absence.
Slovakia took a deserved lead through Vittek in the 25th minute after Eric Jendrisek brilliantly intercepted a De Rossi pass. He perfectly laid the ball for Robert Vittek and all that Italian custodian Machetti had to do was to collect the ball from the back of the net. Slovakia continued to attack with purpose to double their lead, but were unable to break the Italian defense for the remaining of first half.
Italy dominated the proceedings in the second half and the introduction of Pirlo, ten minutes after the break, brought life to the Italian attack. Italy looked a completely different side altogether with Pirlo pulling the strings from midfield, but against the run of play, Vittek doubled the Slovak lead with just twenty minutes remaining, beating Machetti at the near post.
Slovakia took the game well out of Italy’s reach in the 89th minute, scoring their third goal of the day. Sloppy defending from the champions saw Kamil Kopunek rushing in to beat De Rossi and Cannavaro and chipping the ball over the advancing Machetti’s head to confirm Italy’s embarrassment. An injury time goal from Quagliarella made the final score-line look a little respectable for the defending Champions, but it was not enough to prevent the Azzurries from crashing out from the group stage for the first time in 36 years.
TheHardTakle’s Player Of The Match:
Robert Vittek (Slovakia)
The striker showed superb finishing skills to nail two goals past Marchetti, helping his team to book a berth in the knockout stages. He was involved with almost all the attacking moves created by Slovakia and showed willingness to track back to help out the defensive half whenever needed. Undoubtedly, Robert Vittek was the star performer of the day.
TheHardTackle’s Referee Report Card
Howard Webb (England): B+
The English official had a very good game. He controlled the high flying emotions with empathy, curbed the unnecessary play acting very strictly and dealt with the rash fouls by dishing out yellow cards. He could have dished out more than just a yellow to Slovak goalkeeper Mucha for punching Quagliarella in the face, after Italy’s second goal.
SLOVAKIA 3-2 ITALY
Venue: Johannesburg, Ellis Park Stadium
Slovakia Line-up: Mucha, Pekarik, Skrtel, Durica, Zabavnik, Strba (Kopunek 87’), Hamsik, Kucka, Stoch, Jendrisek (Petras 94’), Vittek (Sestek 92’)
Coution: Strba (16’), Vittek (40’), Pekarik (50’), Mucha (82’)
Sent off: None
Goal: Vittek (25’, 73’), Kopunek (89’)
Italy line-up: Marchetti, Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Chiellini, Criscito (Quagliarella 46’), Gattuso (Maggio 46’), De Rossi, Montolivo (Pirlo 56’), Pepe, Iaquinta, Di Natale
Coution: Cannavaro (31’), Chiellini (67’), Pepe (76’)
Goal: Di Natale “(81’), Quagliarella (92’)