Euro 2012: Biscuit threatens to sidetrack Italy's Ireland preparation

Italy's preparation for their final European Championship Group C clash against Ireland here on Monday is at risk of being derailed by a biscuit.

Updated: June 16, 2012 20:50 IST
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Poznan, Poland: Italy's preparation for their final European Championship Group C clash against Ireland here on Monday is at risk of being derailed by a biscuit.

The 2006 world champions sit third in their group after 1-1 draws against Spain and Croatia.

They trail both of those by two points with pointless Ireland already eliminated.

Italy's preparations should be firmly concentrated on getting the victory over Ireland that should prove sufficient to send them into the quarter-finals.

However talk of a "biscotto", or biscuit in English, has got Italian nerves jangling and conspiracy theorists clamouring foul play before even a ball has been kicked.

Should Spain and Croatia draw 2-2 in Gdansk then they will both qualify for the quarter-finals at Italy's expense, regardless of their result against Ireland.

It is because in the case of two or more teams finishing level on points, their head-to-head records come into play.

It was a similar scenario at Euro 2004 when Italy were ousted by a 2-2 draw in the final game between Nordic neighbours Sweden and Denmark.

Those two played a competitive match until the fourth goal went in and then seemed to both settle for the result that guaranteed their passage into the knock-out stages.

That has become known as a "biscotto" in Italian as it is the term used for an arrangement between two parties at the expense of a third.

Its origin comes either from horses being doped by biscuits or the principle of dividing up a cake equally, according to Italian sources.

But whichever is the truth, the fact is the Italians are rattled and rather than focussing purely on Ireland, they're being eaten up by the possibility of being crunched by a "biscotto".

Despite coach Cesare Prandelli's claims they have nothing to worry about, there can be no doubt that it is in the players' minds.

"We must believe right to the end and not cultivate the policy of suspicion," said Prandelli.

"We need to win the game (against Ireland) and deserve to progress to the next round.

"I think Spain will beat Croatia, for the last 10 years they've had a certain image and I don't think they're going to start speculating now.

"We must not think about what happened eight years ago, we must not look for excuses.

"Spain have always produced a spectacle and played well, everyone wants to emulate them, why would they think about a biscuit now?"

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque has vowed to play to win the game against Croatia but the question remains how they will approach matters if they are drawing with time running out.

Any kind of score draw would almost guarantee they win the group - unless it's 1-1 and Italy beat Ireland by more than four goals.

Del Bosque may want to win the game but would he risk losing it when his side are guaranteed to progress with any kind of draw?

The bigger issue for Italy will be the potential banana skin that is former coach Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland.

Trapattoni was the Italy coach in Portugal eight years ago and there would be a sort of poetic injustice perhaps were he to be the architect of Italy's downfall this time around.

The problem for Trapattoni is that Ireland are out and the veteran coach wants to start building for the future.

But he is accutely aware that should he pick a youthful team, as he wishes to, he could be accused of giving his homeland a helping hand.

And the 73-year-old doesn't want to take the biscuit.

"I can start some of the players of the future against Italy; I have changes in mind, but I can't make three, four or five changes as I might be accused of favouring Italy," he said.

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  • Football
  • Alou Diarra
  • Lech Poznan
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Italy
  • Euro 2012

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