Spain, Croatia deny collusion with Italy vigilant
Spain and Croatia have both made it clear that they won’t play
for a 2-2 draw on Monday. If both teams just happen to score two
goals, however, neither may try very hard for a winner.
With a European Championship quarterfinal spot on the line, both
teams deny they will willfully play for a scoreline that would
eliminate Italy regardless of its result against Ireland in the
other Group C match.
The topic of the possible collusion has been raised numerous
times in the last few days, mainly by Italian media who speculate
that a preconceived result would benefit both conspirators by
taking away Italy’s chances altogether.
”There’s no point in even talking about it,” Spain striker
Fernando Torres said Sunday. ”It’s all speculation. Speaking about
it puts the very reason for why we are here in doubt. That’s not
what football is about.”
That hasn’t stopped the questions from coming, and coming, and
coming. To Spain, and to Croatia, and, of course, to Italy.
”We are sportsmen. We are parents. We are normal people. But we
don’t even think about this kind of fixing the draw,” Croatia
coach Slaven Bilic said. ”The whole of Italy and the whole of
Europe can be calm, they don’t have to think about it.
”I just say to (the) Italian team and Italian people, trust in
us and trust in what I said.”
Although it’s unlikely that any team will purposely concede two
goals at such a major tournament, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque
did allow for a reluctance to press for a winner if the score just
so happens to reach 2-2.
On its way to winning the 2010 World Cup, Spain beat Chile in
the group stage, a result that eliminated Switzerland. Chile,
coached by the attack-minded Marcelo Bielsa, suddenly sat back as
neither team pushed hard for more goals.
”Chile gave up on attacking, on achieving a draw, and that
surprised me a lot. Those are situations that happen in a game, it
worked for them,” said Del Bosque, whose team hasn’t given away
two goals in a match in 15 games – including title-winning runs at
Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. ”But for something like that to
happen again does no service to football.”
Although it would be tough to agree on a 2-2 draw before the
match even starts, it’s not all that surprising that the Italians
are worried. Eight years ago, Italy beat Bulgaria in its final
group match at Euro 2004 but was eliminated when Sweden and Denmark
But perhaps the most notorious example of teams settling for a
result came at the 1982 World Cup. West Germany scored early
against Austria and the teams played out a mundane 1-0 match that
eliminated Algeria, which had beaten Chile the previous day. FIFA
changed its regulations after that match to ensure decisive games
were played simultaneously to avoid such a situation again.
Talk of silent pacts, however, is largely confined to matches
that end with big victories rather than high-scoring draws.
Argentina has long been accused of conspiring to beat Peru 6-0
at the 1978 World Cup, where a victory by at least four goals
eliminated archrival Brazil.
Spain has also been questioned in the past. The Spanish
qualified for Euro 1984 with a 12-1 victory over Malta. The Spanish
– who eventually lost to France in the final – needed to win by 11
goals and managed the result despite holding only a 3-1 lead at
On Monday, Spain is guaranteed of a spot in the quarterfinals
with any draw, while Croatia could still be eliminated with a 0-0
or 1-1 result.
But whatever happens in that match won’t affect the way Italy
coach Cesare Prandelli approaches his game against Ireland.
”If we start thinking about a fix,” Prandelli said, ”we’ve