Italian football chiefs today warned Spain and Croatia that they would demand a full UEFA investigation if the two countries draw 2-2 in tonight's final group match, and eliminate the Italians regardless of their result v Republic of Ireland.
In a tightly contested Group C - jokingly dubbed the 'Group of Debt' by economists - Spain and Croatia currently both have 4 points, having both drawn with Italy and beaten Ireland, and a draw tonight would leave them both on 5 points, which Italy, currently on 2 points, could match with a win over bottom of the group Ireland.
A complex set of tournament rules mean if Spain and Croatia draw 1-1, Italy must win by two clear goals to qualify ahead of Croatia. But a 2-2 draw would mean Italy could not overtake the other two in the group, as Italy drew 1-1 against both. Spain beat Ireland 4-0, while Croatia beat them 3-1 in the opening group match. If England were to win their group, they could face the second placed team in Group C.
In Euro 2004, Italy were eliminated in a similar scenario when Sweden and Denmark drew 2-2. An extra layer of irony is the fact the Italian squad were hit by withdrawals and unrest following the arrest of players linked to match-fixing in the domestic league this season.