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Italy's Andrea Pirlo celebrates his goal against Croatia during their Group C Euro 2012 soccer match at city stadium in Poznan, June 14, 2012. (TONY GENTILE/REUTERS)
Italy's Andrea Pirlo celebrates his goal against Croatia during their Group C Euro 2012 soccer match at city stadium in Poznan, June 14, 2012. (TONY GENTILE/REUTERS)

Conspiracy fears say a lot about Italy Add to ...

Apparently in Italy the conspiracy is called something that translates as “biscuits.”

And the Italian media is talking a lot about biscuits right now. The conspiracy on the horizon is that Spain and Croatia will deliberately and cunningly achieve a 2-2 draw to knock the Azzurri out of Euro 2012.

The permutations involved in deciding who qualifies for the quarter-finals at Euro 2012, across all groups, would give most people a headache. Yet the Italian media and some Italy supporters indulge in the speculation about the complex goal-and-points scenario with glee.

One can only assume the flights of fancy about conspiracy is an Italian soccer thing and assume it with some assurance, since Italy entered this tournament, as it entered the World Cup in 2006, with the Italian game under a cloud of allegations of match-fixing. If it happens in Italy, then others will contrive to conspire, is the thinking. This is, after all, an Italian team that went into its campaign in Poland and Ukraine after a dawn raid by police and investigators on Italy`s training camp, looking for evidence in a long-term investigation into match-fixing. Anything can happen when Spain meets Croatia but it is just highly unlikely that both teams have Italy`s future on their minds. It flatters Italy to think that an anti-Azzurri plot is unfolding among some of the best players in the world who happen not to be Italian.

A win over Ireland in this final Group C game would ensure Italy to make the quarter-finals in second place if Spain or Croatia win the other game. Certainly a draw complicates matters because Italy, Spain and Croatia would each have five points and with head-to-head record as the deciding factor, Italy has drawn 1-1 with both other countries. However, if Spain and Croatia tie it 2-2, or have a higher goal-scoring tie, nothing Italy does can improve its chances as Spain and Croatia will simply have scored more goals.

In truth, the conspiracy seems moot since Ireland is eminently beatable. The Irish imploded here and have nothing to gain from a sudden and bizarre show of strength. While it’s true that Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni would savour a good result against his home country, he certainly has other issues on his mind. This will probably be the last international outing for several older Irish players – Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Robbie Keane and Damien Duff. All, with the exception of Duff, have performed very poorly here.

Trapattoni is almost certain to be in charge of Ireland`s World Cup qualifying campaign, which will start within months, and his main task is to find and a field a younger team, a new generation. Here in Poznan, given that the match is technically meaningless for Ireland, a few younger players – those of the future – are likely to get a chance to perform.

Fuelling the conspiracy notions, in part, are memories of Euro 2004 when Italy went out in the group stage without losing a game but lacking the goals and points when a 2-2 tie between Denmark and Sweden meant Italy went home. Giovanni Trapattoni was in charge of Italy at the time. Back then, Italian TV asked for extra TV cameras in the stadium to seek out and record any shenanigans. Trapattoni had the good grace to rise above the suspicions and ignore any conspiracy talk.

Thing is, Italy must win to have any chance of progressing, and that means scoring goals, which has been a problem – strikers Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano haven’t scored yet in the tournament. Manager Cesare Prandelli might change his system to accommodate Antonio Di Natale, which would make the game a lot more interesting than brooding on conspiracies. Certainly more tasty than the “biscuits” theory that’s floating around the Italian media.

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