The Slovakians survived a late surge from the Italians to knockout the defending FIFA World Cup champions in a 3-2 victory. With the win, Slovakia is the second team to advance in Group F with Paraguay.
The Italians followed up their title season with a disappointing last-place finish in their group. The finish marks the first time the country has ever finished at the bottom of an opening-stage group. They allowed an early first half goal to Robert Vittek, but this time were not able to recover.
Vittek put the Slovakians ahead early in the 25th minute when he took advantage of a mistake by midfielder Daniele De Rossi. He got a second goal in the 73rd minute off a corner kick.
Antonio Di Natale gave the Italians hope in the 81st minute cutting the Slovakian lead to 2-1. Kamil Kopunek had other plans for Italy eight minutes later when he punched thier ticket home with a goal that put the game out of reach at 3-1 with a minute left plus stoppage time. The Italians showed they are no push over when Fabio Quagliarella scored to make it 3-2. In the end, time was no friend to the Italians.
For Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro and defender Gennaro Gattuso, the loss marks the last time they will appear for the Italian national team. They both announced their retirement from the team after the loss Thursday. Coach Marcello Lippi has also decided to seek other employment, as Cesare Prandelli has already been chosen to take his place.
The Italian squad was a little older this year, featuring nine players over the age of 30. They had been showing poor form recently, failing to win since beating Sweden 1-0 in November. Since the victory, the team has drawn five times and lost twice. Prandelli will be charged with the rebuilding of the four-time World Cup champions.
Italian goalkeepr Gianluigi Buffon was injured and replaced by Federico Marchetti who might have not been ready for the pressure that comes with the tournament.
Slovakia advanced with four points from a win, draw and loss. The Italians suffered two draws, and Thursday’s heartbreaking loss.
Soccer sportsbooks have set the Slovakians as the underdogs to win the tournament at 150/1 odds.