Conspiracy theories rankle Italy
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.
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 said. Thiago Motta added: "They are professionals. It won't happen, everyone will do their own jobs."
Polish TV apologises for showing Soviet flag
POLAND'S public broadcaster has apologised for showing the Soviet flag on one of its newscasts giving the result of the Euro 2012 co-host's match with Russia this week. The graphic of a small red flag with the hammer and sickle - not used as a national symbol for two decades - set in the foreground of the Polish white and red banner, appeared during Wednesday afternoon's edition of news show Wiadomosci.
Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian white, blue and red flag replaced the communist symbols, which continue to spark mixed emotions among the citizens of the former Soviet satellites, including Poland.
The difficult relationship fraught with historical grievances between Moscow and Warsaw was brought into the spotlight after hooligans attacked Russian supporters during their march to the stadium in Poland's capital on Tuesday. The march also celebrated Russia Day, the anniversary of declaration of the country's independence in 1990 as the Soviet Union collapsed.
Piotr Krasko, the head of Wiadomosci and its main anchor, said the controversial graphic was prepared for an earlier discussion of past matches between Poland and the Soviet Union. Its use for Tuesday's Group A game, which finished in a 1-1 draw, "was an unintended error at the worst possible moment," he told viewers this week.
Security on high alert ahead of Russia-Greece match
NEARLY 20,000 Russians have tickets for their country's European Championship soccer match against Greece today, twice the number who saw the game with Poland that was marred by soccer hooligan violence earlier in the week.
The large number of Russians highlights the challenge facing Poland's security forces after clashes broke out on in Warsaw when Russia and Poland played Tuesday. It was an encounter between two Slavic countries who were once bitter enemies.
Mikolaj Piotrowski, spokesman for the Polish Euro 2012 organisers, said nearly 20,000 Russians have tickets for the Russia-Greece match today evening in Warsaw's National Stadium. He said authorities expect a further 3,000 Russians to watch the game in public spaces, including a large fan zone in the city center. He said police "are ready for any scenario" that might play out today.
Mother's pride hard-earned for Czech player
CZECH defender Theodor Gebre Selassie is making his mother proud at Euro 2012, just not in the way she originally wanted.
Selassie's schoolteacher mum was dismayed when the gifted right back traded in his school books for football boots but the Czech team could not be more pleased he did not listen to her.
"Maybe she is a little happier now," Selassie said with a laugh about his decision to give up studying civil protection after one year to focus on football.
"But I'm sure she is still a little bit upset I left university."
Croatia fined for spectator incidents
THE Croatian Football Federation was fined 25,000 euros ($31,500) by Uefa yesterday for "spectator incidents" during their Euro 2012 Group C match against Ireland on Sunday.
"The sanction has been imposed for the setting-off and throwing of fireworks and missiles, and a pitch invasion by a supporter," European soccer's governing body said in a statement.
Croatian fans celebrated their second goal during the 3-1 victory in Poznan by letting off firecrackers and flares.
A supporter dressed in his country's national team shirt also appeared to come out of the stands and gave Croatia coach Slaven Bilic a kiss on the lips in front of the team bench
Meanwhile, Uefa is investigating reports that a banana was thrown on to the pitch during Italy's 1-1 draw against Croatia in the Euro 2012 Group C match in Poznan on Thursday, European soccer's governing body said yesterday.