What should be considered a fair result; Slovakia were better, and Italy were poor, it’s just as simple as that. In the end Italy ends up right where they deserve to end up, the bottom of the table, behind New Zealand, Slovakia, and Paraguay. Italy has not played well throughout their three games, only turning it on in the final minutes after they’d gone down a goal. Italy’s elimination in the end, was because of Lippi’s selection for me, whether it be the 30-man squad, 23-man squad, or the starting 11, for me they were all poor selections.
Lippi decided to go with a 4-3-3, the same back-line as the past two games with Zambrotta on the right, Criscito on the left, and Cannavaro and Chiellini in the middle. Lippi went with a midfield of De Rossi, Montolivo, and Gattuso who were behind the trident of Di Natale, Pepe, and Iaquinta in the middle. While this formation looked a bit better than past ones, it still wasn’t enough to beat Slovakia.
The first half was terrible, Italy were terrible, and Slovakia were taking advantage of that. I had forgotten De Rossi was in the starting line-up because he never got near the ball, the forwards were inactive as their first touch let Italy down, and Gattuso, well he just did what he does best, get yellow cards. It was truly depressing, and when Vittek scored thanks to De Rossi’s inaccurate pass, it felt just about right.
While I hoped that Italy could turn it on, I knew it wouldn’t happen so early, it just doesn’t work that way with Italy, everything has to be dramatic. So they continued playing terribly, all throughout the first half until Vittek scored again. The defense didn’t anticipate and Marchetti was frozen which Vittek tapped in a cross to lower Italian spirits even further. Lippi put Maggio in for Criscito and moved Zambrotta to left-back, he also put on Quagliarella for a bit of inspiration in the place of Gattuso, sliding Pepe back into the midfield.
It wasn’t until the 81st minute that Italy scored, Quagliarella providing a bit of inspiration to take it past a man, play a one-two with Iaquinta so he could go one on one with Mucha. His shot was well saved by the Slovakian keeper and Di Natale followed up to score Italy’s first. Italy began to click, it was nice to see some hope in the Italian team, and when Quagliarella had a goal disallowed for offside, you could finally see some passion and fight in the team.
But in the 89th, the Italian defence fell asleep and Kopunek chipped Marchetti, it had to be over now. The score at 3-1 it felt like Italy’s fight was truly over, there was little to do about it until Quagliarella had a moment of brilliance. From outside the box, Fabio Quagliarella goes for what looks like at first a chipped through ball, but then is actually a long range chip which gets over Mucha and into the back of the net.
When Quagliarella and Iaquinta go to get the ball from the back of the net, Mucha decides to cause a little bit of trouble. He starts grabbing at the ball himself and eventually some pushing, shoving, and a little bit of kicking ends up with Quagliarella on the ground holding his face. Mucha and the Slovakian defender should’ve received red cards for using physical force to stop Quagliarella from getting the ball back, but referee Howard Webb decided to only give a yellow to the Slovakian goal-keeper.
After this there was hope with the score at 3-2, almost the entire Italy team in Slovakia’s penalty box, every player hoping they could become a national hero by scoring a goal. It could’ve been Pepe, the ball came to him at the back post, but the Udinese winger hit the ball badly and sent the shot wide as the entire Italy bench were up on their feet in anticipation. In the meantime, almost all the Slovakian players were trying to waste time, throwing themselves on the ground, feigning injury, and rolling around in efforts to wind the clock down.
It eventually ended 3-2 for Slovakia, and what should’ve been a loss where we could criticize Lippi and his selections almost became a comeback where he could prove us wrong. But what’s important is that he didn’t prove us wrong, and because of this Italy, the holders of the World Cup won’t progress out of the group stages. We saw a creative player like Quagliarella revitalize the team, imagine if he’d have taken Cassano or Balotelli…
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