Slovakia beat Italy 3-2 to reach the round of 16 at the World Cup and eliminate the defending champion. Paraguay and Japan also advanced as the Netherlands won its group.
Robert Vittek scored two goals yesterday as Slovakia withstood a late Italy rally in Group F, which Paraguay won with a 0-0 tie against New Zealand.
“I take all responsibility for what happened,” Italy coach Marcello Lippi, who led the team to the title four years ago and will now step down, said at a news conference. “If a team shows up at such an important game with terror in the head, heart, legs, the coach didn’t train them as he should have done. It’s not a fantastic moment for Italian football.”
The Netherlands beat Cameroon 2-1 to finish atop Group E while Japan took second with a 3-1 win over Denmark. The top two teams in each group move into the second round.
“Our players were courageous, they played well and weren’t cowardly,” Japan coach Takeshi Okada told reporters. “Our team has strength which other teams don’t have, and that is 27 players and staff who are united.”
Japan will next face Paraguay on June 29, a day after the Netherlands meets Slovakia.
Today, the last two groups will be decided. In Group G, Portugal takes on Brazil in Durban, while North Korea plays Ivory Coast in Nelspruit. Later, in Group H, Chile meets Spain in Pretoria, while Switzerland and Honduras play in Bloemfontein.
Vittek scored in the 25th and 73rd minutes in Johannesburg to give Slovakia a 2-0 lead. Defender Martin Skrtel also blocked an Italy shot on the goal-line in the second half.
Antonio Di Natale then scored for Italy and Fabio Quagliarella had a goal disallowed for offside. After Kamil Kopunek’s goal for Slovakia, Quagliarella scored in the second of four added minutes with a chip over goalkeeper Jan Mucha. With Italy needing another goal to advance, Simone Pepe shot wide in the closing seconds.
Slovakia finished second in the group after starting the day at the bottom. Italy was last as it failed to advance from the first round for the first time since 1974.
“Fantastic day for us,” Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss said at a news conference. “Before that we were under great pressure. After the birth of my son, this is the second-best day of my life.”
Keisuke Honda gave Japan the lead in the 17th minute in Rustenburg with a free kick from 30 yards. Yasuhito Endo curled a free kick around the wall 13 minutes later to make it 2-0.
Jon Dahl Tomasson scored for Denmark in the 81st minute, putting in the rebound after his penalty kick was stopped by goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima. Shinji Okazaki scored the final goal with three minutes left.
“I have no comment to make about the goals,” Denmark coach Martin Olsen said. “We lost together as a team and we win together as a team, that’s the way it goes.”
Van Persie Opener
Robin van Persie shot between the legs of Hamidou Souleymanou in the 36th minute to open the scoring for the Netherlands in Cape Town.
Cameroon captain Samuel Eto’o tied the game with a penalty kick in the 65th minute after Rafael van der Vaart was called for a handball on a free kick. Klaas Jan Huntelaar completed the scoring with seven minutes left by putting in the rebound after Arjen Robben’s shot hit the post.
The Netherlands finished with nine points, three more than Japan. Denmark, which needed to win to advance, had three points and Cameroon zero.
“Today wasn’t as good as the last two matches,” Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk told reporters. “All of a sudden we were shaken awake. We can’t have this period of negligence on Monday.”
In Polokwane, Paraguay forced five saves from New Zealand goalkeeper Mark Paston in a slow-paced game, while the All Whites didn’t manage a shot on target.
Paraguay came closest to scoring after 76 minutes when Edgar Benitez’s shot was stopped by Paston, who recovered to push the ball away from Lucas Barrios. Paston also kept out a free kick by Roque Santa Cruz with 10 minutes remaining.