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World Cup 2010, Italy Vs. Slovakia: Slovaks Advance, Eliminate Italy, With 3-2 Upset

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For the first time since West Germany 1984, Italy has been eliminated from the World Cup at group stage after losing 3-2 to Slovakia. The Azzurri finish with two points, last place in Group F- the first time the Italians have failed to win a match in a World Cup in which they participated.

The trouble started early for Italy, who were giving a Slovakia midfield that had been sub-par throughout the tournament to control of midfield, leading to Robert Vittek’s 25th minute goal. A Daniele De Rossi giveaway let to Vittek’s 22-yard shot from near the arc, beating Federico Marchetti to his right post.

Vittek would make the lead two in the second half, finishing play from a corner kick to beat Marchetti to his left, near post, making it 2-0 in the 73rd minute.

Seven minutes later, Italy pulled a goal back, when interplay between Vincenzo Iaquinta and Fabio Quagliarella led Antonio Di Natale having an unprotected goal to put through a rebound, making it 2-1 Slovakia.

In the 89th minute, Slovakia’s Kamiil Kopunek, having just come on for midfielder Zdeno Strba, beat Marchetti with his first touch, chipping a bouncing ball from the right of the penalty area over an oncoming goalkeeper to give Slovakia a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 leave near full-time.

Italy would pose a final threat in stoppage time, with Quagliarella bringing the Azzurri within one in the 92nd minute, putting a right-footed shot from 22 yards into the upper-left-hand corner of goal, making it 3-2.

Italy would have one final chance in the 94th minute when a long throw-in was flicked far post for Simone Pepe, whose half-volley chance went wide.

Italy had one goal controversially denied in the 67th minute, when a Quagliarella shot from 8 yards out was saved off-the-line by Martin Skrtel, though it was unclear whether the ball had crossed the line before the defender’s right knee blocked the ball back into the field of play.

The 3-2 final puts Slovakia through into the knockout stage, advancing in the first major competition in which they’ve participated. With four points, the move through in second place, finishing one point behind Paraguay.

Italy finished with two points and in fourth place, one point behind New Zealand.