[GROUP F] Slovakia pulled the latest upset in what has been a wild tournament when it eliminated defending champion Italy, 3-2, and claimed second place in
Group F behind Paraguay. For what we liked and didn't like on the final day of play in Group F ...
What we liked ...
-- Slovakia, playing in its first World Cup as an independent nation, began the last day of play in Group F in the cellar but leapfrogged Italy and New Zealand with a victory over the Azzurri in a match whose outcome was in doubt until the sixth minute of stoppage time. Slovakia went ahead 2-0 and 3-1 before finally holding off Italy when Simone Pepe's open shot at the far post off a throw-in went wide.
-- Robert Vittek scored the first two goals for Slovakia to join Argentina Gonzalo Higuain at the top of the leader board among goalscorers with three goals.
-- Fabio Quagliarella, who had a goal called off for offside that would have evened the score at 2-2, scored one of the best goals of the tournament when he beat Slovakia's keeper Jan Mucha with a sumptuous lob in the second minute of stoppage time.
-- Paraguay reached the knockout phase of the World Cup for the third time in the last four tournaments, but the Albirroja won its group for the first time.
What we didn't like ...
-- For only the fourth time, the defending World Cup champion has been knocked out in the group stage. Not only was Italy eliminated but it finished last in what was considered the weakest of the eight groups. Other champions to go out early in their title defense are France (2002), Brazil (1966) and Italy (1950).
-- Defending has always been the forte of the Italians, but it was nonexistent against Slovakia. On the deciding third goal, Kamil Kopunek waltzed through the Italian defense.
-- Needing to win to advance, New Zealand settled for a 0-0 tie. It was the fourth scoreless draw of the group stage but the first of Day 3.