Italy left to pick up pieces from dismal effort

CanWest News Service
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There hasn't been this degree of caterwhauling and overwrought histrionics for ages. Or at least not since the curtain raised on the last performance at La Scala.

"Humiliated by Slovakia, time to go home in shame" read the blazing headline in the pink paper, Gazzetta dello Sport. La Repubblica lamented: "Shame and tear, a nation to be rebuilt."

There hasn't been this degree of caterwhauling and overwrought histrionics for ages. Or at least not since the curtain raised on the last performance at La Scala.

"Humiliated by Slovakia, time to go home in shame" read the blazing headline in the pink paper, Gazzetta dello Sport. La Repubblica lamented: "Shame and tear, a nation to be rebuilt."

La Stampa labelled it: "The blackest page of our footballing history.'

The whole of Italy awoke to espresso and biscotti Friday morning, still coming to grips with the stark 3-2 defeat by Slovakia on Thursday that knocked the Azzurri out of the FIFA 2010 World Cup at the group stage for the first time in 36 years. Just as Les Bleus have been cuisinarted by the press in France and Fabio Capello's misfiring English side was roasted by the Brit tabloid press earlier in the soccer tournament, all eyes are now on Italy.

And despite those tifosi who'll defend them to the death, they deserve every slice of the stiletto.

In a nation obsessed with style, with la bella figura, the 2010 edition of the Azzurri proved to be commonplace, drab and lacking the requisite flair.

"It's total darkness," began Gazzetta's sombre editorial. "The worst Italy we have ever seen go out.

"Like Dorian Gray's mirror, on this afternoon in Johannesburg we saw the picture of an old, defeated team without a style of play or any ideas, outclassed technically and physically by a modest Slovak team.'

Politicians decided to weigh in, too. Roberto Calderoni, a minister who belongs to a right-wing anti-immigration party, used the suffering as a platform to rant. Among his dissatisfactions, he once again raise the always contentious issue of a lack of Italian talent used to stock the big Serie A sides, most noticeably treble winners Inter Milan.

"They are paid millions, have legs made of jelly and are short of breath," he huffed. "This defeat brings the torment of our national side to an indecorous and predictable end.

"Italy's premature elimination is merely the result of an insane sports policy which has seen the league, the cup and the Champions League being won by teams who do not have a single Italian, including the coach."

Northern League senator Piergiorgio Stiffoni suggested cancelling the team's airline tickets.

"To come back to Italy, the team does not deserve a business-class flight," he said.

"If there were a trans-African train they should come back with that.'

Organizations: FIFA, Champions League

Geographic location: Italy, Slovakia, France Johannesburg

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