With all the hype surrounding the 2010 World Cup, Italians were especially excited about the start of their title defense. The World Cup is one of those special sporting events, because it is truly a World event (unlike the World Series in the MLB). It has the mystique of the Olympics for its scarcity and the fans truly love the game. Heading into the group stage, Italy never seemed to have to worry about advancing.
As DocSports.com wrote, “The Italians got a break befitting of World Cup champion with their draw in Group F. One of the easier groups in the field, Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia likely would not get through in any other group, but in Group F one of them has to.”
After a 1-1 tie against Paraguay, you could feel the Italian shock, but there were still two more matches to play and many Italian soccer fans had no worries. Then there was the 1-1 tie against New Zealand, and the pressure was on to beat Slovakia. But still, the defending champions surely could beat a country with slightly over 5 million people (compared to 59.8 million in Italy). Couldn’t they?
No, they couldn’t. Continuing with their early struggles, Italy allowed a goal in the 24th minute. Slovakia then took a 2-nil lead in the 77th minute, before Italy scored in the 80th minute. The big blow came in the 88th minute when Slovakia scored to take a 3-1 lead. With two minutes and stoppage time to play, Italy played their hearts out, scoring in the 91st minute. Too little, too late for Italy, as the lost put them last in their group and ended their title defense.
The critics that said Italy was too old, having nine players over 30 years old, can smile to themselves as they seem to have been right on the money. This is where the mystique of the World Cup truly reveals itself, Italy now has four years to think about this embarrassing display.
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