Cesare Prandelli would have 'no problem' if Italy were withdrawn from Euro 2012 amid match-fixing crisis

 

The full scale of the match-fixing crisis in Italy was made clear today as coach Cesare Prandelli said he would have "no problem" if the national team was withdrawn from Euro 2012, nine days ahead of their opening fixture against Spain.

The Italy boss was speaking at the end of a week which has seen police make 19 arrests, including Lazio captain Stefano Mauri, while Prandelli dropped Domenico Criscito from his squad for the Euros after the Zenit St Petersburg defender was questioned at the team training camp.

Those events led Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to suggest the game would benefit from being suspended for "two to three years" to root out the problem once and for all, but the scandal has only continued to spread with the lawyer of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon forced to leap to the defence of his client last night amid further claims.

With confidence in Italian football now severely shaken, Prandelli seemed to echo the sentiments of Monti and others in suggesting that cleaning up the game is "more important" than carrying on as normal.

"If you told us that for the good of football we should not participate, it wouldn't be a problem for me," Prandelli told RaiSport.

"There are things that I believe are more important."

Prandelli added: "I dislike crusades. I prefer to face up to things and not take positions without considering the consequences.

"I would rather only talk about football, but events are conspiring against this."

Prandelli was speaking after Buffon's lawyer appeared on television to reject claims about the Juventus veteran, who is not under investigation by the police.

Marco Valerio Corini told SkyTG24 television: "There is nothing which could even carry the faintest suggestion of a connection between Gianluigi Buffon and any betting activity that would concern him in any irregularity either with respect to federation rules or criminal law.

"There is not the slightest foundation for any suggestion that this is connected with a bet."

Prandelli admitted he did not know what effect the matter could have on his goalkeeper.

"We keep on saying those players caught up in the investigation will not be going to Euro 2012," he said.

"How is Buffon's mood? You should ask him. He is very strong, with a great personality. He manages to hide uncomfortable moments, but despite this, even a person like him can suffer in a difficult moment like this."

Criscito, who came under the microscope after prosecutors discovered a photograph of him speaking with other suspects, has spoken today of his own heartache at missing Euro 2012, while claiming that he has been made a "scapegoat" after his very public questioning on Monday.

"On Monday morning, I was shocked," the defender told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I never expected it. I have not done anything wrong in my life, as those who know me can attest.

"When I realised the reason for the questioning, I and my family co-operated fully.

"But I don't understand why, when this relates to a photograph of me that is more than a year old, they did not speak to me before, but instead waited until one day before the start of training."

Having been questioned under the full glare of the media at Italy's training camp, Criscito now fears he will forever be associated with the scandal regardless of whether he is found guilty of involvement.

"Being dropped from the squad, I know, makes me a symbol of the scandal," he said.

"I feel anger and sorrow because I should not be a scapegoat for something I am not involved with."

Criscito has also been angered by the fact that Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci, who has also been placed under investigation, has not been dropped from the squad as he has not yet received an official notification from the authorities.

"We both should have gone to Euro 2012," Criscito added. "The fact that I received an official note does not mean that I'm guilty.

"Perhaps the FIGC should have read the order before cutting me from the team."

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