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Slovakia 3-2 Italy - Match Report
Defending champions Italy crashed out of the World Cup following a 3-2 defeat to a gallant Slovakia side in their final Group F game.
- Slovakia 3-2 Italy - As it happened
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The Azzurri side that won the title so clinically in Germany four years ago finished off a dismal group campaign with a shock defeat to finish at the bottom of their World Cup pool for the first time in their history.
Under-pressure coach Marcello Lippi made two changes to his starting line-up with Gennaro Gattuso and Antonio Di Natale in for Claudio Marchisio and Alberto Gilardino, but Italy were always second best on the day to a more committed Slovakia side.
They should have been ahead in the seventh minute when Marek Hamsik fluffed his lines and mis-hit a left-foot volley from 15 yards to send the ball well wide. However, they were ahead on 25 minutes when Juraj Kucka picked up a loose ball out of defence and played in Robert Vittek, who made no mistake with an accurate low shot from 18 yards.
Italy laboured through the rest of the first half and were lucky not to be further behind as goalkeeper Federico Marchetti had to dive at full-stretch to tip Zdeno Strba's 30-yard free-kick around the post, before Kucka lashed a 25-yard volley inches wide of the upright.
Lippi sent on Fabio Quagliarella and Christian Maggio at half-time and veteran playmaker Andrea Pirlo soon after, but Italy continued to play second fiddle to more determined opposition. They were perhaps unlucky when Martin Skrtel was in the right place at the right time to clear Quagliarella's goalbound shot off the line with replays suggesting the ball might have crossed the whitewash.
But the game was affectively over on 73 minutes when Vittek capitalised on more hesitant defending as he reacted first when a corner was returned to the danger area to rifle home a low shot from close range.
Italy finally awoke from their slumbers and Antonio Di Natale reduced the arrears on 81 minutes when he slotted home the loose ball after Quagliarella's low shot following a one-two had been saved. But all their hard work was undone moments later when substitute Kamil Kopunek was allowed to stroll through a static defence to latch on to a throw in and lob the ball over the exposed keeper.
Quagliarella set up a grandstand finish with a second for Italy after producing a stunning lobbed finish from 18 yards to find the top corner, but Slovakia held on to record a famous victory and their first ever in World Cup finals history.
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