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Posted: Wednesday June 23, 2010 11:38PM ; Updated: Thursday June 24, 2010 10:02AM
Georgina Turner

Italy vs. Slovakia World Cup instant analysis

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    The teams are in, and Slovakia looks intent on getting goals with a front four aimed right at causing trouble for Fabio Cannavaro (this is surely a tournament too far for him) and Giorgio Chiellini. For his part, Marcello Lippi has dumped Albert Gilardino and Claudio Marchisio in favor of Antonio Di Natale and Gennaro Gattuso. Let's hope for the end to end soccer of yesterday's US match, without the nerves.

    Slovakia: Jan Mucha, Peter Pekarik, Martin Skrtel, Jan Durica, Radoslav Zabavnik, Marek Hamsik, Zdenko Strba, Juraj Kucka, Miroslav Stoch, Robert Vittek, Erik Jendrisek.

     Italy: Federico Marchetti, Gianluca Zambrotta, Fabio Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini, Domenico Criscito, Gennaro Gattuso, Daniele de Rossi, Riccardo Montolivo, Simone Pepe, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Antonio di Natale.

    "Today is my birthday," announces Jason Parker. "I know I received an early present from the US team yesterday, but if I could be greedy I would ask that Italy get eliminated. It would be the greatest birthday since my Star Wars themed 8th birthday. I hate the diving, the crying, and the negative soccer. The sooner they go home the better. And if their elimination could come at the hands of the Slovaks (I'm half Slovak), I would be in heaven." Steady on there, Jason. Happy birthday and all that, but I make no guarantees regarding heaven.

    Anthems: funereal effort from Slovakia - let's hope that's not a bad sign for the next 90 minutes. Italy's has that bit more pep, as usual, with a shouted last line that would do karaoke bars the world over proud.

    Kick-off: "Despite what they've done so far, I like Italy to win comfortably," says Mark Schmidt. Iaquinta and Di Natale roll the ball to er, get the ball rolling.


  • 1'

    No they don't. Slovakia kicked off. Blimey, that's a good start, isn't it? More coffee, someone!

  • 3'

    A fairly reticent start, with Slovakia holding onto the ball, mainly in its own half. As I type that, Italy move up from a free-kick conceded by Hamsik, and Iaquinta is rescued from a horrible mis-hit shot by being offside anyway.

  • 5'

    "If Italy doesn't win I'm giving up pizza for the rest of the year," threatens Gene Ruta. "And I love pizza." Got to get the topping, right, though. Chicken and green peppers, for my money. Montolivo's just up-ended Jendrisek.

  • 6'

    Close! Hamsik has time to stand and wait for a high ball off Vittek's head to drop to him in acres of space in the penalty area, but scuffs the volley wide. What was the Italian defense doing?!

  • 8'

    Gattuso is riled by a foul that wasn't really that bad. You've got to love that man's comically emotional approach to the game. Surely Maradona's true heir.

  • 9'

    Brushed by a high foot in mid-air, Chiellini performs a very neat double-hamstring curl and goes to ground. "I honestly didn't think Italy was that bad in regards to diving until this World Cup," says Mark Schmidt, who may well be my only reader today.

  • 10'

    Iaquinta puts the ball into the net, but a long while after he fouls Durica and a good few seconds after Howard Webb blows his whistle.

  • 14'

    A reasonably even start, though Slovakia has looked more cohesive going forward. "There is surely nothing better than pepperoni," states Matthew Browning. "It's the king of pizzas."

  • 16'

    "Hey!" calls Jason Parker. "Only reader? Gene and I are insulted." Apologies to all three of my readers this morning. Gattuso's got a bit of a rage on, but I've still not seen too much violence done to him.

  • 18'

    A spell of comfortable defending for Slovakia ends with a slight wobble as Kucka's sloppy pass out is intercepted, but Mucha gathers the shot.

  • 20'

    Make that four readers and counting, here's Alan Lustre! "I think Italy's biggest problem is that they are missing their two best players in Pirlo and Buffon. People seem to eager to write them off when in reality they are doing very well for their circumstance ... imagine the US without Donovan and Howard." Except that the US isn't the current world champion.

  • 22'

    Stoch swings a corner over from the right but it's over-hit. The service to both sets of forwards has been mediocre so far.

  • 25'

    Slovakia 1, Italy 0

    Goal - Vittek

    GOAL! Vittek has just rolled the ball past Marchetti with embarrassing ease.

  • 26'

    De Rossi played a loose ball in front of his own area, Strba strides onto it and slides Vittek in. Now then, this is interesting...

  • 27'

    "Maybe you could rate the Italian dives on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being, 'Played on without hesitation after contact' and 10 being 'Looks like he was just machine gunned in the legs and then garotted?'" wonders Dave from Pittsburgh. You're on.

  • 28'

    Montolivo scores a 3, di Natala a 4. Free-kick to Slovakia.

  • 29'

    Yellow Card - Cannavaro

    Buffon is standing on the sidelines looking like a groom who was supposed to be saying "I do" half an hour ago, and there's still no sign of the bride. Cannavaro is booked for a bodycheck on Kucka. To be fair to him, the bodycheck requires zero movement, which is about as much as he can manage.

  • 32'

    Pepe draws a foul from Kucka, but Italy use the free-kick as a chance to try and play the ball around in a six-yard circle. "I would love to see Italy not make it past the group stage," chuckles Matt Scoggins. "It would deflect more off England's lacklustre performance so far."

  • 34'

    Cannavaro slams into Hamsik just out of Webb's sight, so he gets away without another card. Strba tries a shot from 35, 40? yards, drawing a full-stretch save from Marchetti.

  • 36'

    Vittek sneaks in between the two centre-backs, but Hamsik's cross is behind him and Italy escapes. "Italy has to be the biggest bunch of floppers and crybabies in South Africa," says Dale Spence. "I would love for the US to win, obviously, but after that I will root for anyone playing Italy." This may be the last time that happens, Dale - I think they'll be bottom of the group if this scoreline holds.

  • 38'

    Montolivo shoots from 25 yards but catches it with his studs more than anything, and it bobbles towards Mucha. "Talent and heart are lacking from this Italian team," says Tony Paladino. "Disappointing."

  • 39'

    Man in crowd dressed as gladiator, with red, white and green face paint. He looks pretty glum. That's going to be a fun journey home.

  • 40'

    Yellow Card - Vittek

    Vittek is booked for kicking Cannavaro's foot. They're a feisty pairing, and now both on a yellow card. Oof, and Skrtel's just headed the ball inches over his own crossbar.

  • 41'

    Skrtel has now had Italy's best chance, with that header.

  • 43'

    Lordy, Gattuso has just opened up Strba's knee with his studs. Surgery does less damage.

  • 45'

    "Do you think Roberto Donadoni is laughing right now?" wonders Randy Byrd, in Erlanger. I should imagine he's managed a titter or two. Strba's being stretchered off, and Kamil Kopunek is ready to come on... but Strba's up on his feet and insists he can carry on. Poor Kopunek!

  • 46'

    Now Vittek's taken a 6-rated tumble just outside the area. The entire Slovakian team wants to take it, with only one player in the area ... Durica takes it, straight into the wall.

  • 47'

    Kucka's just planted a volley into the side-netting! Great end to the half for Slovakia, who will surely fancy they can keep this lead - especially if Montolivo keeps shooting like that. Half-time.

  • 48'

    Second-half: Right, here we go then. What can Italy pull out of the bag?

  • 48'


    A question for half-time: "What is your opinion, in general, of Howard Webb?" queries Mark Schmidt. "I do think he's one of the better refs in the Premier League." I agree, and he'll generally have eight excellent games in every 10. But those other two can be real howlers.

  • 49'


    Out: Criscito , In: Maggio

    Out: Gattuso , In: Quagliarella

    Maggio and Quagliarella have replaced Criscito and Gattuso, which are infinitely easier to type at speed. Damn it.

  • 49'

    The word from Italy, via Michele Gazzetti, is that this is "worse than France." That's quite a statement.

  • 50'

    Yellow Card - Pekarik

    Italy is pushing harder for this now, but Slovakia is defending high up the pitch. Pekarik gets booked for sliding in on Quagwotsit, mind you. Ouch, and then Iaquinta heads yards wide from a promising position. Poor.

  • 51'

    Quagliarella has a little nibble at Mucha as he goes to collect the ball, and the Slovakia keeper goes down [8]. This is the good Howard Webb: "Get up," he shouts, hands on hips.

  • 54'

    "As much as I would like to see Italy dumped out of the competition, we've all seen this before," sighs Beth Werner. "One or more of the Italians will take 9-rated dives in the box, get a penalty or two and scrape through." You never know - Andrea Pirlo is about to come on, by the looks of it.

  • 56'


    Out: Montolivo , In: Pirlo

    Di Natale had so much space in the box then I assumed he must be offside, but he was well on. But he only goes and puts it wide. Pirlo is on in place of Montolivo, much to the liking of several hundred vuvuzela-wielding Italians.

  • 58'

    Pirlo's first contribution is to miscontrol the ball and let it roll out of play. Slovakia is starting to look dangerous again.

  • 60'

    Buffon now looks like he's a shade constipated. Gattuso is in a right old funk on the bench. "Viva Slovakia!" yells Spender Dorcik.

  • 62'

    If Slovakia could find the decisive final ball, Italy would be in trouble. Is there something about managers knowing they'll be replaced after a tournament that puts a jinx on their campaign? Di Natale draws a comfortable save from Mucha.

  • 63'

    Kucka, who's had a good game in a Slovakia shirt, shoots well wide from range.

  • 65'

    Good job Maggio's got a bit of pace on him - Stoch chased a hopeful ball and would've been through but for his last minute intervention.

  • 66'

    Skrtel's just blocked a Quagliarella shot on the line! Mucha was all over the place.

  • 68'

    That should draw something better out of Italy now, if it can just get these pesky Slovak defenders out of the way.

  • 69'

    Ooooh, Stoch should have done better with that. There's all kinds of space for Slovakia going forward since Italy started attacking, and he cuts onto his right foot but can't shape his shot on target.

  • 70'

    Another gallop towards goal for the Slovakia forwards, but Hamsik's attempt to thread the ball through the back-pedalling defenders isn't quite on the money.

  • 73'

    Slovakia 2, Italy 0

    Goal - Vittek

    GOAL! Vittek's just scored a second!

  • 74'

    Hamsik plays a low ball into the near post and Vittek steals a yard or two on Chiellini to poke it beyond Marchetti. This is looking grim for Italy.

  • 75'

    "Just placed an order for 11:30 EST pizza delivery, last pizza of the year," says Gene Ruta. "You said 'for your money, chicken and green peppers topping', so that's what I ordered ... send the money." Haha, don't think they take my money in New Jersey.

  • 76'

    Yellow Card - Pepe

    Pepe gets a yellow card for a wild, crazy lash at a Slovakian defender.

  • 77'

    "Italy finally catches a bit of bad luck," begins Bill Hollister. "It sure looked like the ball crossed the line to me. Never the less that was a fantastic save by the Slovakian defender." I actually don't think the whole ball crossed the whole of the line, which is what would have to happen for the goal to be given. I think if it misses Skrtel's knee, he's in trouble, but the bounce off his kneecap saved him.

  • 79'

    "That may put me over the top in my office pool!" hurrahs Daniel Tyree. "I was the only one who picked the Italian diving team to lose!" Just don't shout that in the direction of Gennaro Gattuso; he is in a criminal funk. Di Natale is called offside but Mucha got out to smother his shot in any case.

  • 81'

    Slovakia 2, Italy 1

    Goal - Di Natale

    GOAL! Italy has pulled one back!

  • 82'

    Yellow Card - Mucha

    Shenanigans here... Quagliarella sets up an easy shot for Di Natale for the goal, but afterwards, he piles into Mucha in the goalmouth and it all kicks off. Mucha is booked for making the most of it.

  • 83'

    Yellow Card - Quagliarella

    Quagliarella's been booked too. Seven and a bit minutes to rescue this for Italy - a score draw would be enough if it stays 0-0 in Paraguay v. New Zealand.

  • 85'

    GO-OH NO! Quagliarella scores what would have been an equaliser but the linesman calls it offside... by inches!

  • 87'

    Strba is replaced by Kopunek after all.

  • 89'

    Slovakia 3, Italy 1

    Goal - Kopunek

    GOAL! Kopunek's just put Slovakia 3-1 up with his first touch! Chasing a long ball, he just hooks the ball over Marchetti with the tips of his toes. That should do it, now.

  • 92'

    Slovakia 3, Italy 2

    Goal - Quagliarella

    GOAL! Another back for Italy from Quagliarella! Superb chip over the keeper from just outside the area, just incredible. No one except Messi's controlled the ball that well thus far.

  • 94'


    Out: Jendrisek , In: Petras

    Petras comes on for Jendrisek in an effort to slow things down. The other game has finished 0-0; an Italian equaliser would see it through.

  • 95'

    Another Slovakia player rolls around pretending to be injured, and Webb tells him to get on with it. We're waiting for a long throw for Italy... it's flicked on to Pepe at the far post... and he pokes his shot wide. That maybe the last chance.

  • 96'

    That's it, the final whistle has gone on easily one of the best games of the tournament so far, and Italy, the World Cup holder, is on its way home.

  • 97'

    Quagliarella is distraught, and nobody gave it more than he did for Italy. It's hard to have too much sympathy, however: Italy has played without anything like passion or even that much skill until the second half of this match. No doubt it didn't expect much from Slovakia, which played without any respect for the status of its opponent. The front four looked impressive, with Strba and Kucka playing some excellent balls through from the middle.

  • 98'

    "To settle the pizza argument," says Jason Parker, rounding things off for today. "It doesn't matter what you put on it. If you don't live in Italy or New York your pizza is rubbish." And with that, I bid you farewell, thanks for all your emails and your attention once again. See you tomorrow.

Italy has been as unspectacular as reigning champions go, so far, which means anything less than a win here will leave its place in the table at the mercy of events in Polokwane, where Paraguay takes on New Zealand. Still, at least the opposition is only Slovakia, which was picked apart by Paraguay with the casual indifference of a tiger pawing over the bones of a still-twitching antelope. If Italy is finally going to get its groove on, it couldn't have hoped for a better chance.

The game kicks off at 10 a.m. ET, so join me shortly before that for team news, predictions and your chance to establish the theme for the day's banter: email georgina.turner.si@gmail.com.

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