Match fixing is nothing new to sports; the next scandal is always out there.
But it’s the scale of this one that deserves our attention, not to mention connection to a few games at global soccer’s very highest levels.
Europol, the European Union’s joint police element, announced today that it has found 680 matches deserving of suspicion. The worst part: those matches include contests in the World Cup, matches in European Championship qualifiers and at least two contests in UEFA’s Champions League.
About 300 of those were in Africa, Asia, South America and Central America. Overall, as many as 425 officials, players and criminals are suspected of involvement.
Most of the past scandals in soccer have been contained to fairly obscure leagues or to lower tier associations, like the 2009 betting scandal. That one did involve three matches in the Champions League qualifying rounds, but most of the corruptions were in Eastern European leagues, and in the lower German divisions.
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Europol has yet to begin revealing the suspected players, clubs or officials, but consider this ominous warning from German investigator Friedhelm Althans: “This is the tip of the iceberg.”
As details remain scarce, we don’t know the percentage of matches in this round of match-fixing allegations remain in the lower leagues. Nor do we know if the Champions League matches mentioned are from early qualifying rounds as before (which usually involve lower-profile clubs) or matches further along, when the name clubs are front-and-center.
Despite sitting at the top of the table in the Premier League, things are not going well for Manchester City.
Star striker and leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero suffered a torn hamstring while playing for Argentina, and now he is joined by David Silva on the injured list.
Silva lasted nine minutes in Spain’s EURO qualifying match against Luxembourg, forced off after taking a bad challenge from behind. Silva went down in pain and tried to play on, but asked for a substitution just minutes later.
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Spanish news outlet AS is reporting that Silva has suffered “lateral internal ligament damage in his right ankle,” and could face 2-3 weeks on the sidelines.
With Aguero set to miss at least a month, Silva’s injury could leave Manchester City without two of their top players in the coming weeks.
Silva has arguably been the best player in the Premier League this season, the quarterback of the City attack, which has scored a league-leading 19 goals through eight matches.
City travels to Old Trafford for the Manchester derby on October 25, which falls into that 2-3 week range for Silva’s recovery. In a match that could decide who sits top of the table, Manuel Pellegrini would be very shorthanded without Silva and Aguero.
Alejandro Bedoya will not feature for the United States in the CONCACAF playoff against Mexico on Saturday, and has been replaced on the roster by Bobby Wood.
Bedoya traveled to Los Angeles from his club team Nantes in France, but Jurgen Klinsmann has announced he will be unable to play after falling ill.
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Without Bedoya, Union Berlin midfielder Bobby Wood has been added to the USMNT side. Wood scored the first two goals of his international career this summer in wins over the Netherlands and Germany, and has scored four goals in ten matches for Union Berlin this season. Wood has been training with the U.S. camp throughout the week for the upcoming friendly against Costa Rica.
Bedoya has played well for the USMNT, discounting his short performance against Brazil in September. In that match, Klinsmann played Bedoya out of position against a potent Brazil attack, and he was substituted before halftime. However, playing in his more natural role as a winger or attacking midfielder, many believed Bedoya could be in line for a start against Mexico.