Fuck. My beloved Azzurri have been knocked out of the group stage of the World Cup, the first time they've exited so early since 1974. It's considered a truly shocking (and humiliating) showing for the Italian team by the press and soccer fans. On the bright side, I won't have to sit and listen to fartface Ian Darke commentate and root against them any longer. On the downside, well, obviously, I'm sad because they're out of the World Cup.
But I'm also sad because there was a lot of hooha about how old this team was. Ultimately, I really don't blame age on their loss. Though, I guess it does say something when your world-class keeper is knocked out with a back injury. Sheesh. But if you ask me, and since you're reading this, I guess you might care what I think, Lippi just never got his shit together assembling a top flight squad on the pitch during this tournament. He had guys on the bench that he had no business keeping on the bench. Andrea Pirlo suffered an injured calf on the eve of the tournament, but when he was finally brought in the second half of today's game, it made a world of difference. He's just clever and classy and his footwork creates openings and opportunities to pierce opposing defenses. Why the hell Quagliarella didn't play until the end of ends was beyond me. He showed his craftiness by orchestrating a truly brilliant goal. Worse, Genarro Gattuso finally got on the field in the first half of the game, but was pulled before his teammate Pirlo entered, and every Azzurri fan knows that those two work incredibly well together. It's just...frustrating.
Slovakia deserved to advance, as they put forth a truly solid and at times punishing effort. And the Italians did look, characteristically, not too concerned about being down 1-nil during the first half and even first 20 minutes of the second half. However, once Pirlo and Quagliarella entered the game, all hell broke loose in the best way possible. As Ian Darke sat commenting about the potential lack of heart on the Italian team, once the Slovaks scored a second goal, you could almost see the blue course through Italy's veins and they started playing absolutely monster soccer. The final 20 minutes of the match was once of the most exciting I could've imagined, and if the final score didn't shake out how it did, it'd probably be legendary. First Di Natale struck, and then Quagliarella appeared to strike, but he was called offsides by about a fucking inch. And don't EVEN get me started on the goal that Quagliarella scored that wasn't called a goal, even though Slovakia's defender was inside the goal line when he kicked it out. Oh, it makes me so mad!
But, enough. It's done. In those final 20 minutes, the Azzurri made me proud. But it is an older squad, and captain Fabio Cannavaro and one of my faves, Rino Gattuso, have already announced their retirement from international play. And I fully expect that in four years, plenty of others will be gone. So it's the end of an era for this team. If only they'd had more than 20 minutes of attacking brilliance out of the 270 that they played in South Africa. Fuck.