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Wondering where this match-fixing business will land?


Today’s revelations that Italian standout Gennaro Gattuso has been potentially implicated in match-fixing drags this black mark on the game into a new area.

Gattuso was a World Cup winner for Italy and an AC Milan institution, with 13 years invested in the famous club. He is easily the biggest name yet implicated in the wide-ranging investigation of rigging matches. And isn’t that a little scary?

Not so long ago, world soccer leaders could convince themselves that match-fixing was an issue confined to the soccer back waters, relatively speaking, that this unseemly matter was the province of second- and third-division in Europe, or the “top” leagues in distant Asian lands.

But the drip-drip of news soon implicated UEFA Champions League matches and even World Cup and European Championship qualifiers that may have been linked to some funny business. And now perhaps Italy’s Serie A?

Just yesterday, Fox Sports’ Leander Schaerlaeckens wondered when England – yes, venerable England! – would wake up to the possibility of potential infiltration. It’s an interesting piece, where a match-fixing expert wonders when the British game will shake its “attitude of cultural superiority” and get more vigilant along the watchtower for this stuff.

While it’s important to understand that “match-fixing” isn’t always about actually rigging the results – in many instances, the “rigging” is a player getting a yellow card or perhaps a penalty kick being awarded at some point in a match – all of this does go to the integrity of the game.

And the really big money would be in rigging the result. Anyone out there naïve enough to believe it hasn’t already taken place in some prominent league?

It’s going to happen at some point, the huge bombshell of a criminal revelation. Actual results in the Premier League or in the World Cup finals tournament will find their way into this mud.

It would seem that having a figure like Gattuso implicated – not convicted, it must be said, not yet – moves us one painful step closer to that awful destination.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia