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Holders Italy plummet out and Slovakia surge on after thriller

| 24.06.2010

Reigning champions Italy have been dramatically eliminated from the World Cup in a rip-roaring match with Slovakia, which the minnows won 3-2 to progress to the knock-out stages for the first time in their history. They are now 80/1 to win the World Cup.

World Cup debutant Kamil Kopunek scored the decisive third goal with his first touch just five minutes from time to put Vladimir Weiss’s side 3-1 up before Fabio Quagliarella hit an expert chip with only injurt time remaining to set up a frantic finish.

Simone Pepe had a glorious chance to secure that draw that would have been enough to keep Italy in the tournament on goals scored ahead of New Zealand, but he miscued his effort wide and the holders embarrassingly finish Group F bottom instead.

Playacting from both sides, and particularly Slovak keeper Jan Mucha, meant over seven minutes of injury time but when referee Howard Webb blew for full-time, Slovakia had a deserved victory.

They will now play the winners of Group E – most likely Holland – in the round of 16 and can draw confidence from sticking three past a previously reliable Italy defence.

Robert Vittek grabbed a goal either side of half-time to put his team two up and become Slovakia’s record scorer with 23 goals.

Antonio Di Natale pulled a goal back with ten minutes to go and then Quagliarella was adjuged offside by a fraction after putting the ball in. Amid all this Quagliarella had a shot, just about, cleared off the line by Martin Skrtel.

Kopunek’s strike ended Italy’s hopes but invigorated Slovakia’s and with another performance like this they could prove a hassle to Holland.

Can Slovakia continue the year of the underdog and go even further? Group E’s winners block their path to the quarters. Slovakia are 80/1 to win the World Cup.



John Klee