World Cup Day 14 Recap: Italy Finishes Last

Paraguay 0 New Zealand 0: I must get this out of the way now because this game was pretty bad. New Zealand however can hold their heads up high knowing that they avoided defeat in all group matches and if they were any bit interested in scoring even 1 goal in this one, they would’ve advanced to the 2nd round. Amazing show from the Kiwis but Paraguay moves on and wins Group F.

Slovakia 3 Italy 2: This is not a bad way to win your first ever World Cup match. The world champions are out and dead last in their group after minnows Slovakia put up a shocking upset for the ages. Robert Vittek took advantage of a sloppy Italian turnover and scored the opener in the first half. He’d pick up his 3rd goal of the tournament in the second half to double Slovakia’s lead, and also Italy’s misery. Vincenzo Iaquinta could not pull a goal back but his saved shot fell kindly to Antonio Di Nitale to make it 2-1 with just 10 minutes to go. More drama came when substitute Fabio Quagliarella thought he had equalized but the goal was ruled out (correctly) for offside. Uncharacteristically their death blow came in the 89th minute when they failed to pick up Kamil Kopunek on a throw-in. The substitute who had only come on 3 minute prior made a dashing run into the penalty box, where he received the ball and chipped it over Federico Marchetti and into the back of the net. Quagliarella scored a great goal in stoppage time from 25 yards out, and in one last dramatic moment Simone Pepe was unmarked from 6 yards….but he badly mis-hit an open shot wide of the goal on essentially the last kick of the game. Slovakia are through as Group F runners-up, while Italy finish dead last — yes, dead last behind New Zealand — in a group where they were heavy favorites to finish first. Instead the Azurri led for exactly 0 minutes and 0 seconds in their matches (as did France). Both France and Italy are gone and it’s the first time in World Cup history neither the world champions nor the runners-up advance out of group stage. Astonishing stuff. I’m sure Italy media and their fans are irate. All credit to Slovakia on a great match and an historic upset.

Japan 3 Denmark 1: For the first time since 1970, a team has scored two free-kick goals in a single match. Needing only a win or a draw to qualify for the next round, the Japanese ousted Denmark in style. Keisuke Honda smashed his effort into the far corner from a long way out in the 17th minute, while Yasuhito Endo doubled their lead in the 30th with a curling strike around the wall and past goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen. Jon Dahl Tomasson missed a penalty but had his follow-up shot go in the net to cut the lead in half in the 81st minute. Sloppy Danish defending and creative play from Honda led to a 3rd goal. His clever footwork in the penalty area culminated in a simple pass to Shinji Okazaki who slotted the ball home. Japan finished runners-up in Group E and are the 2nd Asian team to advance, South Korea being the other. They’ve got a date with Paraguay next Monday.

Netherlands 2 Cameroon 1: Klaas Jan Huntelaar scored on a rebound off in the 84th minute to give the Dutch a 100% record in Group E and send Cameroon to another gut-wrenching defeat. This game was pretty much irrelevant as the Indomitable Lions were dominated and eliminated by the 2nd game, and The Netherlands pretty much wrapped up 1st place. Slovakia is their next opponent and that is a Tuesday match.

Slovakia vs. Netherlands and Japan vs. Paraguay are set. The full bracket will be known tomorrow after Group G and Group H are decided. After a very slow start this World Cup has picked up rapidly into something amazing.

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