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Jay Scardina On June - 26 - 2010

Vittek World Cup Goal: Slovakia - Italy 1:0

I remember telling a friend of mine at the pub a couple of months back that I thought that Slovakia was going to be the dark horse team at the World Cup. He laughed at my comment and said that there was no way. He said that the team lacked experience in the World Cup, and that there was no way they would beat out Italy or Paraguay. He was right about one of those games, but I told him that they are a fast and young team. I also told him that I thought Paraguay was going to be their toughest match because they had a similar team made up of speed and youth. As the group matches started I began to lose some faith in my prediction. A late tie with New Zealand and a loss against Paraguay put Slovakia dead last in their group at the start of their final game against Italy. Many of us know that Italy are notorious late starters, and thought that they would pull through in this game to get out of the group. Italy was made up with World Cup winning veterans on the team. Slovakia was made up of World Cup virgins. Even though I am an Azzurri fan, I have to admit that Slovakia deserved this win. They outplayed the reigning champs for most of the game. Italy’s extremely late comeback was too little too late.

Coach Weiss made a few changes to his team, and Jr. was noticeably missing from the starting lineup. Lippi decided to start Di Natale in hopes that Serie A’s top scorer would give his team the win that they needed. Both teams looked like they wanted to open the game up early. Di Natale fired a shot over the bar within the first minute of the game. Then Hamsik had a perfect chance in the box within the first ten minutes. It was clear that both teams were out for blood, and realized how much this game meant. For Slovakia it looked like Hamsik was finally getting into the game. He had a lot of touches on the ball and was a key man in many of the plays. Then 25 minutes into the game De Rossi, who has not been himself at all this tournament, gave away a pass. Vittek struck it just inside the box, and it was 1-0. The Italians were stunned, and began to play a very frustrating game. It showed when Cannavaro was shown a yellow card just 5 minutes after Vittek’s goal. Then 35 minutes into the game Strba almost made it 2-0, but Marchetti saved it trying to give his team a chance to catch up. Italy’s forwards really were the bane of their team, and have been since the beginning of the tournament. They could not find the target. I could not understand why Lippi went with so many Juventus players, especially Iaquinta. I mean the writing was on the wall. The second half ended with Strba almost getting subbed out before the end of the first half. A challenge from Milan midfielder Gattuso created a pretty nasty cut on Strba’s leg.

At the start of the second half it was clear that Lippi was seeing visions of tomatoes and vegetables in his future. He subbed out Gattuso and Criscito for Quagliarella and Maggio. Weiss did not make any substitutions, and looked to lock down their defense anytime Italy had the ball. Lippi did not wait long to make his final substitution, taking Montolivo out at 56 minutes for Pirlo. I will give Pirlo credit for coming out and doing as much as he could, because he is still a great player, but he looked a little rusty out there today. Then Italy earned a corner that looked like it was going in with a dead shot on goal by Quagliarella, but it was stopped at the line by Skrtel. Depending on your angle it looked like the ball may have barely crossed the line. Italy were pushing forward with every play, but left themselves open to counterattacks by the Slovaks. Then Hamsik earned Slovakia a corner kick. The delivery was poorly cleared by Chiellini, and was passed back to Vittek who again found the goal. Italy refused to give up though and earned their first goal after Di Natale caught the rebound and sent it easily into the net. Then came some drama inside the net. Mucha went to get the ball, and Quagliarella came rushing in for the ball too. It looked like Quagliarella tried grabbing the ball away from Mucha and that is when things got physical. Quagliarella went down and put on one of the lamest acts we will probably see this tournament. Quagliarella wasted precious time rolling around in the net, and in the end he and Mucha both received yellow cards. Then Slovakia struck the knockout blow to the Azzurri when De Rossi again made a bad play, this time it was poor throw in. Slovakia substitute Kopunek , who had just come on 2 minutes earlier, stole the pass and chipped it over Marchetti, making it 3-1. Somehow Quagliarella scored a goal 25 years out, and Italy looked like they may pull the rug from underneath Slovakia. However, in the final minutes of stoppage time, they could not get the equalizer that would have sent them into the next round.

In the end the best team won this match. I imagine that Italy will have some major changes before Euro 2012. Many of us knew that Lippi was being replaced anyway at the end of the World Cup, so I don’t know what he was trying to prove with the poor player choices he made. Ellis Park was packed with Italian fans, who just watched their team get knocked out of the group stage for the first time since 1974. This was a huge victory for Slovakia who now move onto the next round and play the Netherlands on Monday.

To watch the goal click HERE

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