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Slovakia Stun World Champions
Robert Vittek of Slovakia celebrate his goal
There will be a new world champion at the 2010 FIFA World Cup after holders Italy were eliminated in dramatic fashion by Slovakia at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Slovakia stunned Italy 3-2 to leave the Azzurri bottom of Group F, while the Slovakians finish second in the pool behind winners Paraguay.
The Slovakians took the lead midway through the first half through Robert Vittek, who also netted a second in the 73rd minute, which came very much against the run of play.
Italy, though, were not going to go down easily as Antonio Di Natale cut the deficit with a goal in the 81st minute, before substitute Kamil Kopunek scored a third for Slovakia. Fabio Quagliarella grabbed a second for Italy in stoppage time but it was in vein as the Slovaks held on for a memorable win.
With goals clearly on their coaches minds, both teams attacked from the offset and early on Iauquinta drove the ball into the side netting after just three minutes, while Slovakia also created a goal scoring opportunity in early stages.
Vittek was able to flick a long ball from the left with his head into the path of Marek Hamšík, but he dragged his volley wide of goal in the 6th minute.
It was proving an arduous task for Italy to shake off the dogged determination of the Slovakian defenders, Iaquinta in particular was being tightly marked by Durica, who was giving the tall Juventus striker a torrid time as the first half reached its midway point.
Slovakia enjoyed a good spell of pressure around this time of the game and it got to a point where Italy needed men to drop back to avert the danger. This came to fruition in the 25th minute as the pressure toiled on the Italians.
Chiellini, in trying to clear his lines, generously gave the ball away to Kucka, who slid it forward to Vittek. He wasted no time in dispatching it along the ground from a central position on the edge of the 18 yard area to beat Marchetti and put Slovakia into the lead.
Marchetti’s goal was again under attack in the 35th minute he was into diving at full stretch to his right block a 20 yard effort from Strba, while in first half stoppage time Vittek was able to win the ball from Chiellini and played it back to Kucka, who thunderous drive from distance evaded Marchetti and missed the goal by mere inches.
Italy began the second half with a sense of urgency Pepe and substitute Maggio combined on the right before Pepe was able to deliver a telling ball towards goal, Iaquinta managed to get on the end of it but his glancing header missed the target that was in the 50th minute.
Just past the hour mark Italy continued to search for that elusive equaliser and Di Natale managed to squeeze a shot round two defenders and had Slovak goalkeeper Jan Mucha scampering across his goal line to make a desperate stop of the ball.
It was proving not to be Italy’s day on 67 minutes Pepe’s curling ball from the right was helped on by Mucha into the path of Quagliarella who hit the ball at the first time of asking, Skrtel was standing on the goal line to block the ball and make the clearance.
There were calls from the Italians that the ball had crossed the line but even TV replays were unable to clearly indicate whether the ball had crossed the line when Skrtel made his initial block.
All of Italy’s work was undone by another lapse at the back as Hasek’s corner from the right was not dealt with effectively by the Italians as Cannavaro headed it back to him.
He gently played the ball back across the face of goal and Vittek got in ahead of Chiellini to knock the ball home and give Slovakia a 2-0 lead, with 73 minutes of the game having elapsed.
Di Natale stroked the ball home from close range in the 81st minute to cut the arrears after Quaglirella’s initial shot had been blocked. He manages to get another goal four minutes later but it was ruled out for off side, and any hopes Italy harboured of launching a comeback were killed when the Slovak’s scored a third.
It took some good thinking by substitute Kopunek to run through the Italian defence onto a throw in from the right which bounced just inside the Italy 18 yard area, he was able to lob the ball over Marchetti to make the score an unbelievable 3–1 with two minutes of regulation time.
Quaglirella got Italy’s hopes up again when he managed to delightfully chip Mucha from around 22 yards out in the second minute of stoppage time to give the holders a glimmer of hope, and Pepe, with the goal at his mercy, missed the ball deep into injury time as the ball came over from a long throw in from the right.
That was to be the end of the action as the world champions were eliminated amidst tears and glum looks while the Slovak’s celebrated their giant killing act.