Italy reeling after loss

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

INNSBRUCK -- It's the day after what's becoming known as "the Beating," and Italy is still reeling in shock.

Never in tournament history has Italy been paddled like it was Monday -- a 3-0 loss to the Netherlands that stunned Italian soccer.

Governments can fall; scandals can shake the foundation their society; and porn stars can be elected without the same kind of soul-searching that goes on when the national side loses badly -- and this was as bad as it gets.

The reaction was immediate, swift and ugly.

"Ouch. What a blow!" was the headline in one newspaper. Another called for Italy to be more humble. "Nostalgia for Lippi," said another, referring to Marcello Lippi, who guided Italy to its World Cup victory in 2006 before leaving.

Roberto Donadoni took over as coach and his career is now teetering on how well his team does in its second game against Romania.

One newspaper gave the readers a choice of voting on which of Donadoni's decisions was the worst.

The Italians were humiliated. Injured defender Fabio Cannavaro said: "Put the babies to bed."

"I want to apologize for this on behalf of the whole team to the Italian people," goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. "I don't think anyone expected this from us, including ourselves. It's easily the worst defeat I've experienced in 10 years with the national team."

Most of the focus was on the Italians because they are world champions.

But just as important was the quality of the Dutch.

They made the Italians look slow and confused. The loss will force Donadoni to go with a much different lineup against Romania and that includes a more mobile defence and a revised midfield.

Donadoni needs to inject more youth and some ball winners. The Dutch not only beat the Italians with their skill, they pushed them around.

The recriminations for this will end only if Italy wins the tournament. But in the cold sobriety of morning as the fog lifts, everything that could go wrong did for the Italians. It's not likely to happen again.

The Italians didn't play well enough to deserve any breaks and now they'll face the music, a long symphony of criticism and call for change.

But there were moments when things could have gone better for them.

Italy will find strength from the fact it can't get any worse.


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