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Posted by Jon Carter on 06/24/2010

Italy bowed out in the group stages. © Getty Images

The 2006 World Cup final in Germany will always be remembered for the final act of Zinedine Zidane’s career – his sending off for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the chest - but both finalists, Italy and France, will now be remembered for a different reason.

In failing to make it out of the groups four years later, they have placed themselves into the history books as being the only previous World Cup finalists to have gone out at such an early stage when both have qualified for the next year’s tournament.

There have been three instances in which neither finalist advanced because one failed to qualify: Uruguay did not go in 1934 and Hungary failed in 1950, while Czechoslovakia missed out in 1966 with holders Brazil failing to get out of their group as star player Pele was literally kicked out of the competition. But few teams in the future will come close to matching Italy and France’s failings at South Africa 2010.

Italy’s functional style of play under Marcello Lippi saw them lift the trophy in 2006, but now they have replaced function with friction as Lippi’s tactics have raised eyebrows in the Italian media and within the squad. Many neutrals would have noticed a distinct lack of star quality in the squad as names like Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero and Alessandro Nesta were replaced by those of Simone Pepe, Claudio Marchisio and Domenico Criscito.

They simply have not got the players to mount a realistic challenge to the trophy again and although many expected them to get out of the group, they have been shown up on the biggest of stages. The signs were there with after an early draw with Paraguay, but a shocking 1-1 result against New Zealand confirmed many critics’ worst fears. A final, awful, defeat to Slovakia saw the world champions slink home in disgrace.

France, of course, chose to conduct their personal affairs in public and their woes have been well-documented. Bringing Zidane back for the 2006 tournament was a stroke of genius as he carried the side to the final, but there was precious little inspiration in Raymond Domenech’s team.
Bizarre tactical decisions from the coach, as well as the public in-fighting, contributed to their exit but, like Italy, France lacked the big-name players of 2006. Claude Makelele, Patrick Vieira, David Trezeguet and, of course, Zidane.

While much of the focus in South Africa has been on the African teams’ progress (or lack thereof) after such hype before the tournament, two of the European heavyweights will certainly dominate the headlines as the group stages come to a close.

Whoever makes it through to the final on July 11 at Soccer City would do well to heed the warning of the previous finalists. No one is too good to go out.


Posted by Ron on 06/24/2010

No established playmaker and striking impotency is the main cause. Goalkeeping is worrying without Buffon or Toldo in goal.

I am a fan of Lippi, Pirlo and Italy..

Posted by maximus on 06/24/2010

this was a thoroughly deserved elimination. the world cup will be better without france and italy.

Posted by Pietro on 06/24/2010

Serie A is to blame. They keep buying Brazilians and don't develop young Italian players. The Premier League is almost as guilty. I think all leagues should cap non citizens at 25% in all sports if there are to be serious national competitions.

Posted by Michael on 06/24/2010

Pietro, you have a very valid point. Well put.

Posted by Giancarlo on 06/24/2010

I was firm believer in 2006 that lippi got it right, but I am also a firm believer that he has got it all wrong in 2010. Never should have left Cassano out, never should have let Rossi out, and should have tried these experiments in qualifying... I love my country, but they dont deserve to go on!

Forza Italia

Posted by adluc on 06/24/2010

Being an Italian fan, even I have to admit that we deserved the early exit. It's a very sad end to the likes of Cannavaro, but the quality just wasn't there.

For all the right decisions Lippi made in 2006, he matched them with bad ones here in 2010. I agree with Pietro, Serie A and the Nazionale have to trust it's youngsters otherwise players like Giovinco and Balotelli will never gain the experience needed, and they will join us in lamenting what could have been.

A new start under Prandelli makes me hopeful, but it will be a while until this bitter taste I have subsides.

Posted by G on 06/24/2010

Woeful, woeful, really. For most of the match, the forwards couldn't hit the side of a barnyard if they tried. There was no poacher's instinct! Everyone played as if they had already won a world cup and was playing on vacation in Miami! None of the forwards made space. When someone shot from the edge of the box, nobody rushes in for the follow up. None of the Italians looked like they could break the offside trap unless the Slovakian defenders ran into the goal themselves. Everyone stood around as if they were playmakers in the final third. There was no trequartista in the style of Totti, no strikers in the vein of Inzaghi, and only Pirlo brought some composure and passing before he was eventually out marked. Can't blame the goals at the end, because Italy needed the whole team plus Lippi up front before they could create any sort of opening.

Posted by Wachira on 06/24/2010

These year worldcup have been boring because we havent seen yet a team which entertains all teams are concern with defence and liyaing on longbal for attackin.just hope it will change in last sixteen.

Posted by Raze on 06/24/2010

WC 2006: Germany
Italy Vs. France

WC 2010: South Africa
Italy Vs. France
Johannesburg Airport

Posted by Michael on 06/24/2010

Well they deserved the defeat:without the likes of Trezeguet,Del piero...

Posted by stevan on 06/25/2010

its a shame for both france and italy for ending their golden generation like a sense,these were the last chance for both to leave an impression in the world cup because after this we will never see cannavaro or henry in the world cup.i just hope the new generation of italian and french players wiil restore pride to their country....

Posted by Kripz on 06/25/2010

I am a neutral, but I would say France deserved to go out as they only got into the WCF by cheating - as they say "Cheaters never prosper". I am sure the Irish are still celebrating and they have every right.
For Italy, well I dunno much because if they played with Totti, Del Piero etc and still failed then the media would attack them stating "Old timers can't play"

Posted by Mussawir on 06/25/2010

since i had alook on the Italia squad for this world cup,i didnt see any upcomming progress with the absence of legends like Totti and Del Piero.
the players in the squad were talented,but there was lack of tactical spirit in the team.
this time we are out,such a great dissapointment to us Italian fans,but we were the Champions four times,and we gonna be the champions again. FORZA AZZURRI.

Posted by rodolfo on 06/25/2010

A disaster.Poor selection of the final 23 doomed this team form the start.How one can select Iaquinta over Rossi or Borrielo boggles the mind.A half Totti was better than none.I watched Italy vs N.Ireland in June 2009 before the Confed Cup,it was so entertaning and refreshing with many new faces,but then Lippi reverted back to his old guard.The alarm bells went off after that tournament but little changes were made.I was glad when Donadoni left,I now wonder what he might have done.Hopefully Prandelli is intelligent and will not hand the World Cup on a platter to Brazil like Sacchi by fielding an injured player like Baggio and benching a Zola or a Trap who needs to defend against a Korea when you could 3 past their calibre and then coast through.To often poor coaching has cost our beloved azzurri.Should Brazil win,it will be 6-4 with the World Cup to come in Brazil.We will have handed the initiative away in the global game.What a shame!!

Posted by ironspatula on 06/25/2010

They thoroughly deserve the boot. Forza WHO?!?!?there were SO many things missing from the Italian squad:

1)Lack of Dives, play acting and theatrics.

2)They should've had a better acting coach. Some of the distressed look after a non-tackle were at best, passable.

3)They actually tried to play football. Come on guys, get real. You cheated the Aussies last WC and got an easy penalty against NZ this time round. Why change the program? Stop playing, keep on cheating.

If they find a better acting, diving coach before the next World Cup, the cup is theirs!!

Posted by Martin on 06/25/2010

Seeing Italy crash out feels like sweet revenge for the fast one they pulled over Australia four years ago. Having to call Italy World Champions has left a bitter taste in my mouth for four years and I am happy to see them finish last in their group even below New Zealand. And I'm Dutch btw, not an Aussie supporter. The tournament will be better off without Italy (and France for that matter). The antics of the Italian player who feigned to be punched in the face by the Slovakian goalkeeper confirm what a sorry bunch the Italians are.

Posted by Scott Marquez on 06/25/2010

Sad to say, but with the disappointing performance in SA, the poor finishing and the unimaginative play making, are the reasons the Azzurri truly deserve to be on their way home. The lack of quality players and Lippi's tactical errors proved to be our downfall, and as a result of that, Alitalia is taxing on the tarmac ready to bring our boys home. With that being said, I await Prandelli and his managerial ability...FORZA AZZURRI...FOREVER!!

Posted by Syamsuriadi on 06/25/2010

I'm one of the Italian Team Fan from Malaysia.I'm admiring Italian Team since world cup 1990 and the best in 1994 eventhough they were finished in final behind world champion Brazil at that time.the squad so strong when the player from goalkeeper to striker was very talented n strong in technical n individual skill. for example they got paolo Maldini for me the best left defender until now, roberto baggio the prolific striker also midfielder was very creative.Now it's time for Italian Team to rebuilt their team to get back the pride which they got before as the world knows that Italian Team known as the best defender in the world.

Posted by SK on 06/25/2010

While the immigration issues are part of the problem, the biggest problem is the Italian mentality of sticking with experience over youth, both at the club level and internationals. For example, how often do you hear of great players playing regularly for their clubs at a young age? In comparison, EPL and La Liga have guys like Messi, Torres and Fabregas who became a regular at a very young age. By the time a good young Italian becomes a starter in the Italian squad, he's most likely around 25 years of age.

Posted by subhransu on 06/26/2010

italy player are care not give their full effort all the matches.match aginest slovakia(1st half) is so bad.i am one fan of italy but so disappoint about their perfermance.

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