The stunned looks and the tears told the story – for both teams.
For defending champion Italy, the ignominy of being sent out of the World Cup in the first round sank in immediately.
“Tonight,” midfielder Gennaro Gattuso said, “we touched rock bottom.”
For Slovakia, which beat the Azzurri, 3-2, Thursday in Johannesburg to advance, well, the celebrating might be nonstop before Monday’s second-round game.
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“We’ve shown that we’re not here for a holiday,” said Slovakia forward Erik Jendrisek.
Four-time champion Italy finished last in an opening-round group for the first time.
“I take full responsibility,” said coach Marcello Lippi, who led the Azzurri to the 2006 championship. “If the squad went out with fear in their legs and hearts it means the coach didn’t prepare the match well tactically or psychologically.”
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 after 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 Italy.
Paraguay 0, New Zealand 0: The Paraguayans, who play Japan on Tuesday in Pretoria, won their group and continued South America’s dominance of the tournament. The continent’s teams have 10 wins, no losses and three draws at the World Cup.
Netherlands 2, Cameroon 1: Robin Van Persie finished off an end-to-end move in the 36th minute, and substitute Arjen Robben sent a shot against the post in the 83rd that Klaas Jan Huntelaar only had to slide in for the winner as the Dutch won in Cape Town and set up a second-round match with Slovakia.
Japan 3, Denmark 1: Spectacular first-half goals by Keisuke Honda and Yusuhito Endo helped lift the Japanese in Rustenberg, sending them into the round of 16 for the second time. The Danes failed to advance from the group stage for the first time in four World Cups.