Given their league is
mired in another match-fixing scandal, Italians assume others
indulge in underhand tactics and the fear that Spain and Croatia
will contrive a 2-2 draw to knock the Azzurri out of Euro 2012
is growing apace.
Not among the players and coach Cesare Prandelli, it must be
added, but in a media obsessed with football conspiracy theories
which they bizarrely call "biscuits".
A win over eliminated whipping boys Ireland and their
Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni in the final Group C game on
Monday would be enough for Italy to make the quarter-finals in
second place if Spain or Croatia win the other match.
However, a draw makes the situation complicated because all
three teams would be level on five points and head to head
record is the deciding factor, with Italy having drawn 1-1 with
All three would have the same points in the mini-league and
a zero goal difference so goals scored becomes all important.
A 0-0 stalemate between Spain and Croatia means Italy are
through with a win against the Irish while a 1-1 draw brings
goal difference in the entire group into the equation.
A 2-2 or higher scoring draw between Spain and Croatia,
though, and Italy can do absolutely nothing as on the head to
heads the other two will have scored more goals.
Almost every player was asked by reporters about the chances
of a fix after Thursday's draw with Croatia, even before Spain
had even beaten Ireland to set up the possibility, which both
teams deny could ever happen.
"I don't fear the biscuit," goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon
Thiago Motta added: "They are professionals. It won't
happen, everyone will do their own jobs."
Italy's paranoia over conspiracy theories stems from the
2002 World Cup when, ironically bossed by Trapattoni, they were
eliminated in the second round after a defeat by co-hosts South
The Azzurri were certain that the referee favoured the hosts
as part of a FIFA campaign to get the home side through, all
denied by the authorities.
At Euro 2004 Trapattoni's Italy went out in the group stage
in exactly the same sort of scenario they fear now, when a 2-2
draw between Denmark and Sweden prompted their exit.
Again there were protests about match-fixing but UEFA said
everything was above board.
Italy won the World Cup in 1982 and 2006 after betting and
match-fixing affairs at home had tainted the build-up and this
time left-back Domenico Criscito was left out of the squad after
police said he was being investigated over fix allegations.
He denies wrongdoing in what is becoming a wide-ranging
probe that has also led to the arrest of former Italy midifleder
Wherever Italy turn, the murky world of cheating is
Prandelli is calmness personified and is too shrewd to let
it get entrenched in his players' minds but they cannot help
wonder - they are Italian.
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