Italians feel disappointment, bitterness for World Cup elimination

08:18, June 25, 2010      

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It's a hot, sad summer day. Bars are crowded with moaning, disappointed and angry fans: on Thursday Italy's squad "miserably" lost 2-3 to Slovakia and is definitely out of the South Africa World Cup.

Italians can hardly accept this "forced exit" , a tough reality that stirs deep resentment.

"We could have done much better. It's quite humiliating to lose in such a way considering we were the outgoing World Champions, but I suppose we pretty much deserved it. We never pulled out the best of ourselves," 22- year-old Fabrizio told Xinhua.

Italy's performance since the beginning of the world cup was never outstanding, despite the team had a reputation to keep up and desperately failed in defending its world title. The match against Slovakia was the final, definite knock-out.

"The problem is that most of the players are too old, they were world champions four years ago and age in football is crucial. Unfortunately, this time coach Marcello Lippi made the wrong decision by leaving many young, emerging stars at home that could have boosted the team's performance," stressed bar keeper Matteo.

People sitting in front of the cafes' maxi screens and televisions shake their heads, saying Italy should feel ashamed. Some complain that the second goal scored by player Guagliarella was "unfairly" cancelled by the referee, but the general response is that the squad was helpless.

Matteo is flabbergasted. "I still can't believe we missed so many chances to score and beat Slovakia, even just a few seconds before the end of the match we had a golden opportunity to catch up. Too late now, bye-bye South Africa."

The disillusionment is almost tangible: Italy's squad didn't even make it to the eight finals and suffered the extra humiliation of finishing at the bottom of the group, after New Zealand.

Italians nurtured high expectations, even if they knew it was quite impossible to repeat the 2006 Berlin world victory. "I must admit Slovakia played much better than us, we never seemed to be really participating in the game. There was no enthusiasm among the players," pointed out Aldo, a 65-year-old pensioner.

One thing is fair play (acknowledging the single defeat), another is being forced to abandon South Africa at such an early stage and after the shock of 3 goals.

Maria Rosa, a state employee, confessed that the real issue at stake is another one. "These so-called champions are paid far too much money for doing nothing at all. They have lost sense of sacrifice, endurance, concentration. Many of them just play football for the sake of it."

The current scenario is totally different from the 2006 world cup: at the time Italy was rocked by a series of football scandals that ended up building courage, strength and comradeship in the national squad. "Apparently, it's only when we're stressed and depressed that we play at our best," joked Maria Rosa.


Special Report: World Cup 2010


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