Only a 1-0 win to Italy in the final game of the stage could have sent them home from the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, in which only the three pool winners were guaranteed to qualify.
Slovakia were in pole position to progress as the best runners-up, having finished their campaign in Group A with six points behind England, yet Federico Bernardeschi’s first-half goal gave Italy the victory they needed to go through.
The young Italians topped Group C ahead of Germany due to their superior head-to-head record. Ironically, though, they had a poorer record than Slovakia, who were, nevertheless, eliminated as Germany had a greater goal difference than them.
Hapal was left irate with the two teams, who offered little attacking intent in the closing stages of their match and thereby denied the Slovaks the opportunity to tackle Spain in the final four.
“What Italy and Germany have done is a shame for football,” he raged. “We are all very disappointed. With all due respect for England and Spain, for me, this tournament is over, I will not watch it anymore.”
Germany sporting director Horst Hrubesch said: “Let’s not get carried away. It’s completely normal to play safety first in the last five or six minutes.”
Meanwhile, German striker Davie Selke admitted: “Maybe it was not the most entertaining match for the fans.”