In a FIFA World Cup™ first, neither the reigning champions nor the runners-up from the previous edition have reached the Round of 16 here at South Africa 2010. With France having exited on Tuesday, today was the turn of holders Italy to bow out after a dramatic defeat by debutants Slovakia, who reached the knockout phase in the process.
Japan, too, made history by clinching a last-16 berth for the first time on foreign soil, while Paraguay had never previously qualified for the second round as group winners. The already-qualified Netherlands, for their part, ended their Group E campaign with a third win to become only the second team so far, after Diego Maradona’s Argentina, to advance with a 100 per cent record.
Goal of the day
Fabio Quagliarella, Slovakia 3-2 Italy, 92 mins: Already in added time and with his side desperately chasing a lifelife, Italy’s No18 coolly collected the ball on the edge of box before sending an exquisite chip into the top corner of Jan Mucha’s net. Unfortunately for La Nazionale, the equaliser that would have sent them through proved beyond them.
One to remember
Italy’s defeat meant they joined France in packing their bags for home. This is the first time that the two FIFA World Cup finalists from one edition have both been knocked out in the first round of the following tournament.
Quote of the day
“I assume complete responsibility for this failure. I was convinced this squad could do a lot better than that – not win the World Cup, but do a lot better. When a team goes into a match as important as this with fear in their stomachs and heavy legs, it’s because the coach hasn’t prepared them well enough mentally, physically and tactically, but above all mentally. I offer my apologies to Italian sport, the players, the football association, everyone. I’m very sad that my adventure with the Italian football association has come to an end in this fashion,” Marcello Lippi, Italy coach.
Stat of the day
3 – A new FIFA World Cup record for Japan, who had never before scored three times in one game in the competition. What is more, two of their goals against the Danes came from sumptous free-kicks.
Voice of the fans
“This is a real shock. Even though Italy had been terrible in their previous games, I still expected them to pull a win out of the bag and qualify. Credit to Slovakia, though, they really deserved this win, they were just fantastic and I am so happy for them! This World Cup has been so interesting so far,” lutontown1988 (England).