FIFA 2010 World Cup Review: Italy Eliminated—How Did This Happen?

Ron FurlongAnalyst IIJune 24, 2010

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 24: Antonio Di Natale of Italy lies on the ground dejected during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group F match between Slovakia and Italy at Ellis Park Stadium on June 24, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/ Grazia Neri/Getty Images

They are the defending World Cup Champions. They are ranked fifth in the world in FIFA's rankings. And they are going home.

After winning it all in Germany in 2006, Italy had perhaps its most disappointing World Cup ever. After losing to Slovakia today 2-3, the team is leaving South Africa.

Slovakia and Paraguay advance out of the group. The Italians join New Zealand in heading home.

Italy has won the World Cup four times and has been the runner-up twice. Coming into this World Cup the team had an incredible record of 44 wins, 19 draws, and only 14 losses.

Italy has not failed to advance out of the first round since 1974.

None of that history meant a thing coming to South Africa; they simply played three subpar games.

Marcello Lippi directed the Azzurri to the title in 2006, and then resigned from the post. However, after Roberto Donadoni failed to impress as coach of Italy, Lippi returned to the position to lead Italy to this World Cup.

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It sounded like a good plan but didn't quite work out that way.

They didn't play with the desperation they needed to. Slovakia had the better chances in the first two-thirds of the game.

Italy seemed to finally realize their plight when they fell behind 0-2 late in the second half on a 73rd minute goal by Robert Vittek, his second of the game.

A goal by Antonio Di Natale in the 81st minute gave Italy life. They needed a draw to advance.

Suddenly after Di Natale's goal, Italy had attacking, pressing life.

They nearly had the goal they needed in the 85th minute; an offsides call nullified it.

Slovakia all but sealed the win in the 89th minute on a goal by Kamil Kopunek, pushing the score to 3-1.

Italy did manage a second goal in stoppage time with a brilliant strike from Fabio Quagliarella, but it wouldn't be enough. 

In the first two games, the Italians found themselves losing to inferior opponents and had to fight back for game-tying goals.

Throughout this tournament they did not play with attacking fervor. If they had played more like they had in the final 10 minutes of each game, they would not be heading home.

Italy was considered to have perhaps the easiest path in its group of all the top teams and now the players have to be looking deep inside themselves after this showing. 

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