The defending World Cup champions have been ousted. Italy fell to Slovakia 3-2 today and finished last in group F. The Azzurri join 2006 finalists France as powerhouses to not make it through to the second round. It is the first time in the history of the World Cup that this has occurred.
Italy needed a victory or draw today to secure a second round berth, a surprising situation given the team’s pedigree. They, much like the French, underachieved for most of the group stage and paid dearly for it. The Italians finally woke up late in the second half today, but it was too late. The Slovaks had already built a 2-0 lead and added their third goal shortly after the Azzurri notched their first of the game.
I will give Italy credit. They played with pure desperation and almost managed to earn the draw. Unfortunately, they didn’t place with that sort of drive or passion in their first two games. Had they come to play against New Zealand or Paraguay they would probably have advanced. It didn’t help that all-world goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon was out due to injury.
Due to these upsets, the second round has a very distinct flavor to it. Considering so many dark horses have made it through, it is tough to say who will make it through to the quarterfinals. There is even an outside chance the Spanish could be sent home if the proper pieces fall into place. The chances Spain is sent home are much better than Portugal’s chances. Only if Ivory Coast hangs a big number on the North Koreans, much like Portugal did, the Portuguese will be safe to advance through the Group of Death.
The final day of group play is tomorrow and Uruguay and South Korea kick off the second round at 10:00am on Saturday.