Italians fear fixing in crucial time

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 soccer 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 both.

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.

"I don't fear the biscuit," goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. 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 Korea.

Wherever Italy turn, the murky world of cheating is consuming them.

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