Italy's forwards at the World Cup 2010 had scored just two goals among them in the last seven games prior to the clash with Slovakia but on Thursday evening they scored two in the space of just 12 minutes. Yet it was not enough.
The Azzurri hadn't won a game in 2010 but a draw would have been enough for Marcello Lippi's side to progress to the last 16. The 3-2 defeat at the hands of World Cup debutants Slovakia at Ellis Park in Johannesburg saw Italy catch the early flight back home. The Azzurri became only the fourth ever defending champions to be eliminated in the first round of the world's most prestgious international competition, but by no means is this bunch of 23 players the only ones to have suffered such a humiliation.
1962 World Cup - First Round Exit
Italy were placed in Group 2 in the 1962 World Cup in Chile along with West Germany, Switzerland and the hosts. The Azzurri started the campaign with a goalless draw against the Germans and confronted Chile in their next match at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago. Italy's Giorgio Ferrini was sent off in the eighth minute for a foul on Honorino Landa and had to be dragged off the pitch by policemen.
Then in the 41st minute Mario David was given his marching orders for kicking Leonel Sanchez in the the head. Violence intercepted the game at regular intervals and the game is (in)famously known as the 'Battle of Santiago'. Italy lost 2-0 to Chile and despite defeating Switerland in the next game, finished third in the group and took their leave.
1966 World Cup - First Round Exit
The Azzurri were placed in Group 4 at the 1966 World Cup in England along with the former Soviet Union, North Korea and Chile. Italy took their revenge against Chile from four years earlier in their opening game as they defeated them 2-0. However, the European giants lost 1-0 to the Soviets in their second game and took on unfancied North Korea in their third and final group match at Middlesbrough's Ayresome Park in front of 18,000 spectators.
Italy were expected to win comfortably but the Azzurri lost Giacomo Bulgarelli after 30 minutes due to a knee injury and then in the 42nd minute Pak Doo Ik created history when he fired an angled shot past Enrico Albertosi. North Korea went on to win 1-0 and Italy exited the competition to national disgrace and ridicule.
1974 World Cup - First Round Exit
Italy were clubbed together with Poland, Argentina and Haiti in Group 4 in the 1974 World Cup held in West Germany. The Azzurri started their adventure on a high as they defeated Haiti 3-1 but could only draw 1-1 with Argentina in their next match. In their final group stage match, Italy went down 2-1 to Poland. Andrzej Szarmach and Kazimierz Deyna scored for the Poles and Fabio Capello pulled one back in the 85th minute but in vain - the Azzurri crashed out of the World Cup.
1986 World Cup - Last 16 Exit
Italy were pitted against Argentina, Bulgaria and South Korea in Group A at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Draws with Argentina and Bulgaria were followed by an enthralling 3-2 victory over South Korea, meaning that the Azzurri would finish second in the group behind Argentina. Italy faced France in the last 16 at the Estadio Olímpico Universitario in Mexico City. The French took the lead as early as the 15th minute through Michel Platini, and Yannick Stopyra secured the victory three minutes before the hour mark. It finished 2-0 to France.
2002 World Cup - Last 16 Exit
Placed in Group G alongside Mexico, Croatia and Ecuador, Giovanni Trapattoni's Italy weren't expected to find it hard in the group stage. However, a win against Ecuador was followed by a defeat to Croatia, and only a draw with Mexico in their final group game secured qualification for the last 16, where they confronted co-hosts South Korea.
It was a controversial game in which (now former) Ecuadorian football referee Byron Moreno sent off Francesco Totti for a 'dive' and also wrongly disallowed a Damiano Tommasi's golden goal in extra time. South Korea won 2-1, thanks to an Ahn Jung-Hwan strike.
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