Defending Champs Fall at World Cup

By ROB HARRIS
|  Thursday, Jun 24, 2010  |  Updated 9:30 PM CDT
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Defending Champs Fall at World Cup

Getty Images

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 24: Federico Marchetti of Italy makes a save during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group F match between Slovakia and Italy at Ellis Park Stadium on June 24, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)

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For Slovakia, reaching the World Cup for the first time was a major achievement. Making the second round at the expense of defending champion Italy? Unthinkable. At least, that is, until it happened Thursday.

A 3-2 victory over Italy in the Group F finale showed the perils of writing off Slovakia, which is in its first World Cup as an independent nation. Captain Robert Vittek scored twice to boost Slovakia into second place in the group.

He says "We came here as newcomers and outsiders, but we have already surprised once and we want to do it again." The next chance comes Monday in the round of 16.

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