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.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
Life and Style
tech
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
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

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Analyst / Helpdesk Support Analyst

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is the UK's leading ...

The Jenrick Group: Finance Manager/Management Accountant

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: The Jenrick Group: Finance Manager/Manag...

Recruitment Genius: Manufacturing Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a rare opportunity for ...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'