Rome: Italy's press on Friday feared that Spain and Croatia would conspire to draw their final Group C match in Euro 2012, recalling a similar situation eight years ago that saw the Azzurri eliminated from the competition.
"The return of nightmare scheming," the Gazzetta dello sport said in its headline. "With 2-2 we're out," it said.
Italy are two points behind Spain and Croatia but if they win their final match against Ireland and the other game ends in a draw, three teams will finish on five points.
Qualification would then be decided by their head-to-head meetings.
Italy have drawn both their games so far 1-1, so a 2-2 draw between Spain and Croatia would give them both more goals than Italy and would see the Azzurri eliminated.
In Euro 2004, Italy were knocked out by a 2-2 draw between Sweden and Denmark, prompting speculation in Italy - who face an Ireland side coached ironically by their handler at the 2004 finals Giovanni Trapattoni - the Scandinavians conspired to ensure qualification.
Tuttosport played on a widely-used term to describe Italy's Euro 2004 exit - "biscotto" or stitch-up - calling Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque "Vicente Del Biscotto".
"Let's hope there's no 'biscotto' between Spain and the Croats," said La Repubblica, adding that in its opinion, Italy striker Mario Balotelli should still play, despite failing to shine in the first two matches.
Croatia has scoffed at suggestions that the two sides would conspire to play for a 2-2 draw, with defender Vedran Corluka saying: "Who has a betting scandal in their country?"
Corluka was referring to recent allegations about illegal betting and match-fixing in the Italian leagues, which cast a shadow over the country's Euro 2012 preparations.