London: Italy will be praying history does not repeat itself this evening when Spain and Croatia line up in their final Group C game knowing a 2-2 draw would see them both go through and the Azzurri heading home.
Suspicions are rife in Italy that the game will finish with a result that suits both of their rivals, the worries fuelled by bitter memories of Euro 2004.
Eight years ago, Denmark and Sweden faced each other with exactly the same scenario as tonight – a 2-2 draw seeing both sides in the quarterfinals and Italy out.
Denmark went ahead 2-1 then, and in the final minute of the game, Danish goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen spilled a cross and Mattias Jonson scored to make it 2-2.
Afterwards there was a whirlwind of conspiracy theories, with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, Italy’s captain at Euro 2012, accusing Sweden and Denmark of a fix.
He said at the time: “Someone should be ashamed and it’s not us.”
Franco Carraro, then president of the Italian football federation, said: “There is no doubt that the way the Denmark versus Sweden game developed shows that the two teams were aiming for a draw.”
Jon Dahl Tomasson scored both Denmark’s goals that night, including a brilliant opener, and afterwards was adamant both teams were trying to win.
He said: “There was no fixing – how could I have fixed that opening goal?”
Ironically, Italian football is currently in the midst of a match-fixing scandal of its own, with several players arrested and defender Domenico Criscito left out of Italy’s squad after being caught up in the investigation.