Defending Champions Italy Embarrassed and Out

France going out of the World Cup on Tuesday was one surprise to many, but Italy’s shock defeat and elimination today was something else. The defending champions, widely expected to win the group and qualify comfortably for the knockout stages went out finishing bottom of their group.

Heading into their final group game against Slovakia, a score draw realistically would have seen them through, while a victory would have given them a chance to win Group F. Instead they were outplayed by the European minnows who recorded their first ever victory at a World Cup today.

Robert Vittek finished off a nice move halfway through the first half. The score remained the same at the break as Marcello Lippi sent on Andrea Pirlo and Fabio Quagliarella at half time, taking off Gennaro Gattuso in the process. This opened up the game and made for a thoroughly entertaining second half. Both sides had chances to score before Robert Vittek doubled the Slovakian’s lead with little more than 15 minutes remaining. But when Antonio Di Natale pulled one back inside the final 10 minutes you could have been forgiven for thinking the Italians would find an equaliser. And with 5 minutes to go they nearly did, but for a tight offside decision to rule out Quagliarella’s effort. Darren Cann’s flag frustrating the defending champions. Substitute Kamil Kopunek wrapped up the game in the final minute with his first touch, chipping the ball over the helpless Federico Marchetti. The opportunity came after a bad backpass conceding a throw and then allowing Kopunek to run unmarked towards goal. Fabio Quagliarella would score a spectacular consolation goal as some of the Italian players were left crying after the full time whistle.

Brave New Zealand Eliminated

Slovakia qualify as runners up after New Zealand were held 0-0 by Paraguay. Paraguay’s failure to score a goal may have cost me a bet, just another bet the New Zealanders have cost me during this tournament. They have overachieved significantly in my opinion and go out of the competition with their heads held high and undefeated.

Japan Look Good

Winners of Group E Paraguay will face Japan in the second round after the co-hosts of 2002 beat Denmark 3-1 this evening to book their place in the last 16. The talented Keisuke Honda got the scoring underway with a spectacular free kick that fooled Thomas Sorensen in the Denmark goal. Yasuhito Endo added a second free kick before Honda’s great skill set up Shinji Okazaki late on.

Many Fancy the Dutch

The Netherlands continued their 100% record in World Cup 2010 and 100% record in competitive matches under Bert van Marwijk as they beat Cameroon 2-1 this evening. Robin van Persie scored his first goal to get them underway, before Samuel Eto’o equalised from the penalty spot. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored the winner late on after he coolly rebounded Arjen Robben’s post-struck shot into the net. The Dutch are looking good, but haven’t been tested so far. Slovakia in round two shouldn’t be a problem, but it may just be too tough for the Oranje when it gets to the quarter finals and beyond.