THE Games' second team of highly paid professionals - the Italian footballers - have done less well than the basketball players of the United States.
While Michael Jordan and co cruise on to the gold medal, the Azzurri, 16 of whom are on contracts with Serie A clubs, failed dismally to live up to their billing as favourites and have now packed their bags.
Apart from the opening 22 minutes of the first game, when they took a 2-0 lead against the United States, they struggled through their group - they were beaten 3-0 by Poland, and beat Kuwait by a mere 1-0. Things got no better in the quarter-finals, where they were despatched 1-0 by Spain, for whom Francisco Narvaez scored in the 38th minute.
The Italians thought they had equalised seven minutes from time, but Dino Baggio was offside when he volleyed in.
Poland also booked a place in the semi-finals when they beat Qatar 2-0.
Spain, who have yet to play a game in Barcelona will stay in Valencia for their semi-final. The organisers were worried from the start that the team could become the focus for Catalan demonstrations and decided to keep them out of the host city until the final.Reuse content