|ESPNsoccernet: World Cup 2010|
Italy arrived in Rome on Saturday and unlike four years ago, after a triumphant World Cup in Germany, there were few fans waiting for them at Fiumicino airport.
Marcello Lippi's side endured a shock early exit from the tournament after a 3-2 defeat to Slovakia ensured they finished bottom of Group F.
After their famous win over France in 2006, thousands of fans greeted the Italians in the Eternal City, but this time less than 100 supporters were on hand and many of them expressed their disappointment.
Shouts of "shame on you'' were directed mainly at coach Marcello Lippi, Fiorentina striker Alberto Gilardino and Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro.
Italy left the World Cup without a win after disappointing draws against Paraguay and New Zealand before falling to a 3-2 defeat against Slovakia in their final group game.
"There is a lot of bitterness,'' Italy forward Fabio Quagliarella said. "It's understandable. We have said sorry to our fans. Now we must construct an Italy side that is always strong.''
Italy will unveil Cesare Prandelli as Lippi's successor on July 1 and, judging by the Azzurri's display in South Africa, he will have plenty to do if Italy are to qualify for Euro 2012.
"Next week we will present Prandelli as the new coach,'' Italy Football Federation president Giancarlo Abete said. "There's the need, the duty to start again, knowing how important this national team is for millions of fans.
"Prandelli has been chosen because of his technical quality, his capacity to work with youngsters. We want him to remain for a long time that will end after the next World Cup. He has signed a four-year contract.''
Abete does not believe announcing Prandelli as the new manager ahead of Italy's trip to South Africa earlier this month had hindered the side.
"No, I don't believe that was the case,'' he said. "In any case, we had no alternative because Lippi's wish was to leave the national team after the World Cup.
"We had to make a decision regarding the new coach in order for Prandelli to free himself from his contract with Fiorentina.''