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The Italians were playing football giants Slovakia, with a population of somewhere around 5 million. The Slovakians played Italy off the park, for the majority of the game Italy were absolutely terrible, to put it in to context, they played as bad, if not worse than England the other night.
Although the result may not have gone exactly how I would have wanted the game was one of the best of the tournament, providing 5 good goals and some big talking points… As opposed to the other game of this group, Paraguay against New Zealand which ended 0-0, and with the Slovakia Italy game finishing 3-2 to Slovakia, Paraguay top the group with Slovakia in second. Italy came dead last under New Zealand, and their completely at fault manager, Marcello Lippi walked straight off without shaking the Slovakian manager’s hand… Who does he think he is? The French manager?
When the score somehow became 2-0 to Slovakia with only 15 minutes or so left it seemed like Italy were definitely out, no chance of bagging two goals. They scored one. I jumped out my seat. Then they scored a second, and in between the ball hitting the net and the linesman waving his flag for offside I nearly choked, that’s not to say it definitely wasn’t offside, but it certainly didn’t look too offside. For a second it seemed like classic Italy, leaving it to the last minute. There were a few brave/stupid calls on the line. Offside’s, and goal line clearances, it all went against the tallies.
Slovakia decided to stop playing so dangerously and scored a really nice goal through a substitute who had just come on… 3-1. Italy did manage one more, and it was a moment of genius. Names do not matter today, that Italy team does not deserve to be named. They simply deserve to fly home and face the music… Slovakia may be diving, cheating time wasters, but they thoroughly deserved to win, and now they face Netherlands in the next round after the Dutch beat Cameroon 2-1 to finish top of their group with until-recently-injured Robben and Van Persie scoring the two goals.
Japan were the final team of the day to qualify after beating the Danish 3-1 with goals from freekicks finally. It seemed like it was destined not to happen, no Beckham-style swerved freekicks into the top corner, or even the bottom corner. Thank God then for Japans Honda who treated viewers to two in 15 minutes. Conspiracy theories abound as it was revealed that Japan have been using the now infamous Jubulani ball in their J-League.
Today, Brazil v Portugal, Ivory Coast v North Korea finish up their group and Spain play Chile while Switzerland play Honduras.
Henry Hunter – WNV UK