GDANSK, Poland— Spain and Croatia have both made it clear that they won't play for a 2-2 draw on Monday. If both teams just happen to score two goals, however, neither may try very hard for a winner.
With a European Championship quarterfinal spot on the line, both teams deny they will willfully play for a scoreline that would eliminate Italy regardless of its result against Ireland in the other Group C match
The topic of the possible collusion has been raised numerous times in the last few days, mainly by Italian media who speculate that a preconceived result would benefit both conspirators by taking away Italy's chances altogether.
"There's no point in even talking about it," Spain striker Fernando Torres said Sunday. "It's all speculation. Speaking about it puts the very reason for why we are here in doubt. That's not what football is about."
That hasn't stopped the questions from coming, and coming, and coming. To Spain, and to Croatia, and, of course, to Italy.
"We are sportsmen. We are parents. We are normal people. But we don't even think about this kind of fixing the draw," Croatia coach Slaven Bilic said. "The whole of Italy and the whole of Europe can be calm, they don't have to think about it.
"I just say to (the) Italian team and Italian people, trust in us and trust in what I said."
Although it's unlikely that any team will purposely concede two goals at such a major tournament, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque did allow for a reluctance to press for a winner if the score just so happens to reach 2-2.
On its way to winning the 2010 World Cup, Spain beat Chile in the group stage, a result that eliminated Switzerland. Chile, coached by the attack-minded Marcelo Bielsa, suddenly sat back as neither team pushed hard for more goals. (AP/TW)