Italy's foundation falls apart with World Cup exit
NATAL, Brazil (AP) One by one they said goodbye.
First, it was coach Cesare Prandelli's turn.
Then football federation president Giancarlo Abete.
And finally, midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo.
Italy's foundation exited en masse after a devastating 1-0 loss to Uruguay on Tuesday that knocked the Azzurri out of the World Cup after the group stage for the second straight time.
''It's a very sad day for us - as a group and as individuals,'' captain Gianluigi Buffon said.
Prandelli and Abete each resigned during the post-match news conference and Pirlo reportedly bid goodbye to the national team during what must have been an emotional changing-room speech. Pirlo had said before the tournament he would quit international football after Brazil.
The last time Italy failed to proceed from the group stages in two successive World Cups came between 1950 and 1966, when Italy was eliminated in the first round four successive times.
Having opened with an impressive 2-1 win over England, the Azzurri failed to score in losses to Costa Rica and Uruguay.
''We started well and maybe our expectations were too high after that opening win,'' Buffon said. ''Now we know the hard reality: this is a squad that hasn't scored in its last two matches, has created little, and was deservedly eliminated.''
Prandelli was furious about a red card shown to midfielder Claudio Marchisio during the second half but he took full responsibility for the loss.
''This entire program was mine and it wasn't a winning program,'' Prandelli said. ''I'm resigning - irrevocably.''
Prandelli guided Italy to the final of the 2012 European Championship and signed a contract extension days before departing to Brazil that could have kept him in place through Euro 2016.
Before he left, Prandelli took time to hit out at Italy's lack of fan support.
''We're the only national team that starts off without the support of its fans,'' he said. ''Then they ask us to save the nation's fortunes at the World Cup. ... There's no collaboration with the clubs, either.''
Prandelli cited a lack of quality players available to him, although he'll be criticized for dropping talented forward Giuseppe Rossi - even though that decision was influenced by a knee injury to the United States-born player.
The coach relied heavily on Mario Balotelli but benched his star forward in the second half against Uruguay.
''Whoever doesn't have the right dedication and passion should stay home,'' veteran midfielder Daniele De Rossi said in what was interpreted as a remark aimed at Balotelli's aloofness.
Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf