MILAN, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro shocked a nation with his error-strewn display in the 3-1 friendly defeat in Hungary on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old World Cup winner looked a shadow of his former self when he rashly dived in on Tamas Priskin to gift Hungary a penalty, which made it 2-1.
The years looked to have caught up with him when he was beaten for pace by Zoltan Gera and tried a desperate slide that the Hungary captain easily evaded to set up the third goal.
'We have never seen Cannavaro in such crisis,' ran a headline in Gazzetta dello Sport, which gave him a 4.5 out of 10 for his performance.
However, Real Madrid fans will tell Italians that Cannavaro had a difficult first season at the Bernabeu when he looked anything but the World and European player of the year.
Overall the criticism in Italy was mild given that he lifted the World Cup little over a year ago -- he lost partner Marco Materazzi to injury at half-time and the match was only a friendly.
However, with Group B leaders France next up at the San Siro in a Euro 2008 qualifier on Sept. 8, alarm bells are starting to ring.
The players were philosophical about the defeat.
'On an evening like this in which everyone has failed to express themselves well, you always go searching for the errors of an individual,' goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon told reporters.
'Instead we should say a big apology and prepare ourselves for the next game.'
Despite the defeat, there have been no calls for the resignation of coach Roberto Donadoni, who was forced to select players before they had played a competitive match this season.
He had pleaded with the league to start Serie A last weekend but instead the big kick-off is this Saturday.
Donadoni also stuck by Cannavaro.
'Fabio Cannavaro made two big mistakes, but these things happen in football,' he told reporters.