Italy became only the fourth defending champion to exit at the group round phase (Italy in 1950, Brazil in 1966, France in 2002) after a humiliating South African experience. The Azzurri lacked balance, creativity, organization and urgency.
Paraguay wins the group and Slovakia finishes in second. New Zealand leaves South Africa with their heads held high after three draws. Italy props up the Group F table with only two points. Italy only came to life in the last twenty minutes tonight at Ellis Park and it was far too little, too late.
Quagliarella Only Bright Spot for Azzurri
A rare bright spot for the Azzurri was second-half substitute, Fabio Quagliarella. The Napoli man figured in three scoring opportunities. One was negated for offside, the other was cleared off the goal line and the third was an excellent chip for the second Italian goal.
Quagliarella summed up the Azzurri experience at this World Cup: A lack of urgency until on the absolute edge of the cliff. His form was not replicated by his teammates. The difference tonight was an organized Slovakian team managed by Mr. Weiss versus a group of individuals who were surprisingly unprepared and without conviction. As you will see in the following translated comments, Marcello Lippi didn’t shy away from responsibility or candid observations.
Marcello Lippi: “I take full responsibility.”
“Mi prendo tutte le responsabilità. Se in una partita così importante una squadra si presenta col terrore nelle gambe, nella testa e nel cuore, e non riesce a esprimersi per come era necessario significa che l’allenatore non l’ha preparata bene sul piano tecnico, tattico e psicologico.
Non pensavo di rinvincere il Mondiale, ma chiudere il mio rapporto con la Nazionale in questo modo è bruttissimo. In bocca al lupo al mio successore e grazie a tutti per questi quattro anni in parte fantastici e in parte molto deludenti. La responsabilità è tutta mia, di chi ha costruito questo gruppo. Ero convinto e avevo voglia di rifare questa esperienza dopo aver vinto il Mondiale. Mi dispiace enormemente. Non ho intenzione di riprendere subito ad allenare, ora voglio fermarmi qualche mese per valutare tutto“.
“I take full responsibility. If in an such an important game, the team presents itself with terror in their legs, heads and hearts, and doesn’t succeed to express itself how it was necessary, it means that the manager did not prepare the team well on a technical, tactical and psychological level.
I didn’t think to win the World Cup again, but to end my tenure with the national team in this manner is the worst possible way. Good luck to my successor (Cesare Prandelli) and thanks to everyone for these four years in parts fantastic and other parts very disappointing.
The responsibility is completely mine. For whom built this side. I was convinced and had the desire to redo this experience after having won the World Cup in 2006. I am very, very sorry. I don’t have the intention to manage another team straight away. Now I want to step back for a few months to evaluate everything.”
“Everything exploded tonight.”
“Questa volta non sono riuscito a infondere le giuste motivazioni ai miei giocatori. Abbiamo fatto due partite non brillantissime contro Paraguay e Nuova Zelanda, ma se avessimo confermato quelle prestazioni, aggiungendo qualcosa di più in fase offensiva, forse sarebbe stato sufficiente. Invece stasera è esploso tutto. Avevo detto ai ragazzi ‘finalmente è arrivato il Mondiale, stasera è dentro o fuori’. Evidentemente ho sbagliato a creare quei presupposti psicologici, perché poi la squadra non è partita, non ha giocato, non ha costruito, non ha fatto nulla“.
“This time, I wasn’t able to impart the proper motivations to my players. We had two games against Paraguay and New Zealand and didn’t really shine. But if we had shown more desire in those appearances, adding something more in the offensive phase, perhaps it would have been enough. Instead tonight, everything exploded.
I had told the lads ‘Finally the World Cup is here. Tonight it’s either in or out.’ Evidently, I was wrong to create those psychological presumptions because the team didn’t come off the starting blocks, didn’t play, didn’t create and didn’t do anything.”
“Il problema non è mettere prima un altro. Ma mettere in campo una squadra capace di esprimersi dal primo minuto. In passato avevo creato il giusto mix, stavolta non ci sono riuscito.”
“The problem wasn’t one player before another. But to put on the pitch a team capable to express itself from the first minute. In the past, I had created the proper mixture. This time, I wasn’t successful.”
On the Losses of Gigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo
“E comunque in una fase finale perdere due giocatori come Buffon e Pirlo non è semplice. Però ugualmente stasera dovevamo presentarci in altra maniera. Ma non possiamo pensare che l’Italia è quella che abbiamo visto stasera“.
“Well, to lose two players in a final phase such as Buffon and Pirlo isn’t easy. But by the same token, tonight we needed to present ourselves in a different manner. But we can’t think that Italy is what we saw tonight.”
Match Statistics: Slovakia 3-2 Italy
Possession: 52% to 48% for Italy.
Shots (on target): 16 (6) for Italy to 13 (4) for Slovakia.
Offside: 3 to 1 for Italy.
Corners: 6 to 3 for Slovakia
Crosses: 21 to 18 for Slovakia.
Passes: 367 to 334 for Italy.
Completion Rate: 75% to 74% for Italy.
Contrasts Won: 57 to 49 for Italy. (These are one-on-one situations.)
Yellow Cards: 4 for each team.
Match Official: Mr. Howard Webb of England.
Please note: Goalkeeper saves are not tracked.
Italian source: La Gazzetta dello Sport, June 24, 2010.
Also see: World Champions no more as Italy crash out.
Steve Amoia is a freelance writer, editor and translator from Washington, D.C. He writes the World Football Commentaries blog. He has written for AC Cugini Scuola Calcio (Italian soccer school), Football Media, Keeper Skool and Soccerlens.