Group F Final Redux: Italy Not Even Third Best…New Zealand Is

25 June 2010

Italian goalkeeper Federico Marchetti (L) is beaten by Slovakia's Kamil Kopunek as Slovakia goes 3-1 up. (Credit Image: © epa/ZUMApress.com)
It may sound callous of me to say I don’t care that Paraguay finished first or that Slovakia finished second. The story of Group F could actually be at the bottom.

I think everyone but those in Paraguay, Italy, or Slovakia wanted New Zealand to advance. That could just be my wishful thinking, but their journey has been a remarkable ride. With no one giving them a shot at getting out of the group, they came into today with that notion still on the cards.

New Zealand did a remarkable job frustrating Paraguay today. Paraguay played with no urgency, and New Zealand’s defensive set up eliminated their usual attacking flow. With the All Whites not budging, Paraguay spent way too much time passing the ball around the backline while trying to find an opening that never came, and never coming up with a plan b to attack it.

The thing that frustrated me about New Zealand today was they waited until it was too late before attacking. For all their defensive structure, they were too scared to attack. When you realistically only give yourself ten minutes to win a match, you won’t do so too often. Even their best attacking move in the game resulted in Chris Wood being offside.

Meanwhile, Italy didn’t start showing any passion or pride until they were 2-0 down and realistically staring elimination in the face. Even during the previous seventeen minutes when Andrea Pirlo was subbed on, Italy lacked any urgency or flow that one still needs to possess in desperate situations.

Di Natale was smart in continuing his forward run when Italy pulled one back, making it 2-1. However, it was their lack of focus at the back that eventually led to their undoing. Kamil Kopunek was really only brought in to be a fresh set of legs late in the match, but he may end up a bigger national hero than he will ever realize. On a simple Slovak throw in, Kopunek made the perfect forward run, and timed his chip perfectly over the out stretching Marchetti.

While some can say that Italy should have been awarded a goal just moments earlier, I feel the referee made the correct offside decision. Sure Quagliarella made it somewhat interesting in stoppage time, but this result was sealed in the seventy-third minute.

When it’s all said and done, this group finished exactly how it probably should have based on the balance of play. Paraguay had just enough of an attack against Slovakia. Slovakia rebounded as well as one could after giving up a late equalizer against New Zealand. New Zealand just didn’t have enough of an attack to get out of the group, while Italy didn’t bother to show up until there were twenty minutes left in their World Cup experience.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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