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Italy eliminated from World Cup

Posted: June 24, 2010 1:46 p.m.
Updated: June 24, 2010 1:46 p.m.
 

Johannesburg (AP) - Defending champion Italy was eliminated Thursday from the World Cup with a humbling 3-2 loss to Slovakia.

Slovakia finished second in Group F to Paraguay. This is the first time the Italians finished at the bottom of an opening-round group.

For the third consecutive game, the Azzurri allowed an early goal and this time they never recovered.

Robert Vittek put Slovakia ahead in the 25th minute, taking advantage of an errant pass from midfielder Daniele De Rossi. Vittek doubled the lead from close range in the 73rd following a corner kick.

Antonio Di Natale scored for Italy in the 81st, but Kamil Kopunek ended Italy's chances eight minutes later, even though Fabio Quagliarella scored in injury time for the four-time champions.

It marked the end of an era for Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro and Gennaro Gattuso, who already announced their retirement from the national team after the tournament. Coach Marcello Lippi is also moving on, with Cesare Prandelli already chosen as his successor.

Never have the previous World Cup finalists both failed to advance in the next tournament when both qualified. France, which lost to Italy on penalty kicks for the 2006 title, went out earlier this week in Group A.

Slovakia plays Monday in Durban against the Netherlands. It is the first World Cup for Slovakia as an independent nation.

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