BERNE - Argentina's 4-1 friendly defeat to
Nigeria is being investigated for possible match-fixing, by far
the highest-profile game to come under the microscope so far,
soccer's governing body FIFA said on Saturday.
"FIFA can confirm that this match between Nigeria and
Argentina was one that we had an active interest in, and forms
part of a wider ongoing FIFA investigation," said FIFA in a
"In particular, FIFA will be working closely with colleagues
at the FIFA early warning system."
Refereree Ibrahim Chaibou of Niger awarded two controversial
penalties in the match, Victor Obinna converting for Nigeria in
the 27th minute and Mauro Boselli scoring for Argentina deep
into stoppage time with the last kick of the match.
Manipulation of matches by gambling rings has become a major
concern for world soccer's governing body FIFA and its European
counterpart UEFA and both monitor thousands of matches for
unusual betting patterns.
Last month, FIFA set up a partnership with Interpol and
announced it would donate 20 million euros over the next 10
years to fight the problem.
FIFA is currently investigating two international friendlies
played in Turkey in which seven penalties were awarded, one of
them taken twice. The six match officials involved have been
suspended pending the outcome.
FIFA has already tightened the rules around the arrangement
of international friendlies.
Both FIFA and UEFA say that match-fixers tend to target
lower-profile matches - often in the early qualifying rounds of
European competition, lower division of national leagues or
obscure international friendlies - to avoid attracting
Wednesday's match was played on the same day as Sepp Blatter
was re-elected as FIFA president in Zurich and emphasised a
"zero tolerance" policy towards corruption.
Argentina sent a B team to the match in the Nigerian capital
Abuja and the outcome also prompted Argentine FA president Julio
Grondona to criticise his national team coach Sergio Batista.
"Batista asks for these matches, you can't (take) a risk
like that," said Grondona, referring to Batista's decision to
take a second-string team.
"One level is not the same as the other, Nigeria picked
their best players."
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