Italians left on the brink of disaster

Italy 1 Czech Republic 2

Thirty years on from Italy's embarrassing exit from the 1966 World Cup in England, they face elmination from Euro 96 in the group stage after falling to the first major shock defeat of the tournament.

Not only did the Czech Republic defeat them thanks to goals from Pavel Nedved and Radek Bejbl, they also had Luigi Apolloni sent off. He will miss their final game in Group C against Germany on Wednesday, a game, realistically, the Italians now need to win to reach the quarter-finals. Even that might not be enough if the Czechs defeat Russia on the same night.

It was a damaging night for the Italian coach, Arrigo Sacchi, who has never been able completely to shake off his critics at home even though he guided his team to the World Cup final two years ago. Last night he gambled on making five changes to the team that defeated Russia and lost heavily.

As early as the fifth minute the Italians, among the tournament favourites, were in trouble. The Czech coach, Dousan Uhrin, had prepared his players to counter the Italian offside trap and when Karel Poborski, a constant problem with his pace and dribbling, crossed from the right, Nedved stole in on the blindside of Roberto Mussi. The Sparta Prague midfielder controlled with his chest and as Angelo Peruzzi came out stabbed the ball past him with his right foot.

The lead lasted just 13 minutes before the Italians replied with a quicksilver counter-attack. A pass from the Czech's Jan Suchoparek was intercepted by Diego Fussi deep in the Italian half, the ball was interchanged with Chiesa down the right wing and a second later Fussi was crossing low for Chiesa to score.

If the Italians thought they had survived their crisis they were wrong. After 28 minutes they were down to 10 men when Apolloni was sent off for his second bookable foul - a hack from behind on Pavel Kuka - and six minutes later they were trailing 2-1.

Again the Italians failed to react to a midfield player arriving late into their area, this time Kuka providing the cross and Bejbl a sharp finish. The Slavia Prague player was 15 yards out and had to meet the ball on the volley but side-footed with great precision and power past Peruzzi's right hand.

The mould was set. The Italians, depleted or not, had to attack while the Czechs dug in behind their one-goal lead, making only isolated raids from their trenches. It made for thrilling stuff: would the team pressing forward be enticed too far, could they break through?

Twice the Czechs almost put the game beyond reach, Peruzzi charging out to save from Vladmir Smicer and Poborski. But the Italians had their chances, too, Paulo Maldini just over with a lunge and Roberto Donadoni grazed the bar with a fierce drive from the left.

The final, decisive act of frustration came in injury time when Gianluca Zola crossed to Pierluigi Casiraghi. The Lazio striker had the goal at his mercy but he snatched at the shot and it went high over the bar. His gesture, falling to the earth, head in hands, summed up the night.

Goals: Nedved (4) 0-1; Chiesa (18) 1-1; Bejbl (35) 1-2.

ITALY (4-4-2): Peruzzi (Juventus); Mussi (Parma), Apolloni (Parma), Costacurta (Milan), Maldini (Milan); Fuser (Lazio), Albertini (Milan), Baggio (Parma), Donadoni (New York/NJ MetroStars); Ravanelli (Juventus), Chiesa (Parma). Substitutes: Carboni (Roma) for Baggio, 39; Casiraghi (Lazio) for Ravanelli, 57; Zola (Parma) for Chiesa, 78.

CZECH REPUBLIC (5-4-1): Kouba (Sparta Prague); Latal (Schalke 04), Kadlec (Kaiserslautern), Suchoparek (Slavia Prague), Hornak (Sparta Prague), Nedved (Sparta Prague); Poborsky (Slavia Prague), Nemec (Schalke 04), Berger (Borussia Dortmund), Bejbl (Borussia Dortmund); Kuka (Kaiserslauten). Substitutes: Smicer (Slavia Prague) for Berger, 64; Nemecek (Servette) for Latal, 88.

Referee: A Lopez Nieto (Spain).

Bookings: Italy: Appoloni, Fuser. Czech Republic: Suchoparek, Latal, Kuka, Kadlec. Sent off: Italy: Appoloni.

Man of the match: Poborski. Attendance: 37,320.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific