Defending champs Italy ousted


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Johannesburg, June 24

Holders Italy made a humiliating exit in the World Cup group stage when they lost 3-2 to Slovakia on Thursday having been largely outplayed. Slovakia's win put them through to the second round. Striker Robert Vittek scored after 25 and 73 minutes and Kamil Kopunek added a third in the 89th for World Cup debutants Slovakia in their final Group F match at a stunned Ellis Park, where Italian flags stopped waving almost from the start.

Antonio Di Natale and Fabio Quagliarella scored for Italy.

Slovakia, who made four changes to boost their attacking options given they had to win to have any hope of qualification, started brightly and showed a speed of movement which Italy have severely lacked all tournament.

The Azzurri drew 1-1 with Paraguay and New Zealand in earlier lacklustre displays and more sloppiness led to Slovakia's opener.

Daniele De Rossi gave the ball away and Slovakia attacked straight at the heart of Italy's wide open defence. Juraj Kucka played the ball through for a falling Vittek to score from the edge of the box beyond the reach of keeper Federico Marchetti.

Vittek netted his second at the near post from close range and, after Di Natale pulled one back for Italy after 81 minutes, substitute Kopunek grabbed a third for Slovakia.

Quagliarella made it 3-2 with a dleighful long-range chip over Jan Mucha but it was too late for the Italians.

With France also going out at the group stage, it is the first time the two finalists from the previous tournament have failed to make the knockout round.

The amazing defeat brought an abrupt end to Marcello Lippi's time as Italy coach and the international careers of Fabio Cannavaro and Gennaro Gattuso after the trio said this would be their last tournament with the national side.

Italy's best chance in the first half came when Slovakia's Martin Skrtel headed narrowly over his own bar, a mark of how poor Italy have been in South Africa, while Skrtel cleared Quagliarella's shot off the line in the second period.