WARSAW: Complicated permutations and talk of a conspiracy surround the final matches in Euro 2012’s Group C on Monday, with Italy needing to beat whipping boys Ireland to stand any chance of progressing ahead of either Spain or Croatia.
An Italy win against a leaking Irish defence in Poznan would lift them to five points, while Spain and Croatia meet in Gdansk at the same time with both sides on four points.
Here the situation gets complicated. Should Spain and Croatia contrive a 2-2 draw an Azzurri win would be in vain, a scenario which has had domestic media conjuring up talk of a conspiracy, referred to as a “biscuit” in Italian.
There is some historical justification for their fears. At Euro 2004 the Italians left the tournament at the group stages when a 2-2 draw between Denmark and Sweden sent them packing.
With Spain the most probable group leaders after Monday’s matches the onus is on Croatia to force the issue by scoring goals as a 0-0 draw in Gdansk coupled with an Italy win would send Cesare Prandelli’s men through.
Croatia and Spain have never met in a competitive match but both attacks are scoring freely, while Italy have not beaten Ireland since 2005 and most of the pair’s meetings are close affairs.