Czech Mate

Czech 0-2 Italy / Ghana 2-1 USA You have to respect the Italian fans. They’re the only set of fans in the whole of the World Cup that are even more pessimistic than England’s. They dropped two points against the USA (whose sole tactic appeared to be kick the Italians very hard), and the country was plumetted into depression. There was nothing really to base this on, of course. They had been unfortunate (the sort of own goal they conceded happens to any team once in a decade), and, on balance, it was a match that they deserved to win. All Italy really needed was a point, so why did they decide that this would be the team that would become the first Italian not to reach the group phases since 1974? This is, after all, an Italy team that hasn’t lost a World Cup match in ninety minutes since 1986. Incredible, but true. They needn’t have panicked, of course. The Czechs had put in real Jekyll & Hyde performances against Ghana and the USA respectively. A team that had gone from one being talked about to reach the quarter-finals (or possibly to go further) was suddenly in trouble. Their confidence had been shot to pieces by the Ghana match and, by half-time, they were as good as on their way home. Materazzi’s header from a corner (from which...

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