Skip to content

Criscito, finito: Match-fixing probe claims Italy’s starting left back

May 29, 2012, 7:45 AM EDT

(FILES) This file picture taken on June Getty Images

Alternate title: 2006 does not apply

Domenico Criscito, one of Italy’s projected starting XI at Euro 2012 (and a target of the country’s latest match-fixing probe), has been forced out of the country’s squad of Euro 2012. So yeah, this is a big deal.

How big is this Italian match-fixing probe getting? Aside from the list of prominent names being arrested in conjunction with the investigation (including Juventus head coach Antonio Conte), the controversy’s compelled James Richardson to write.

The host of the internet’s “it” podcast (The Guardian’s Football Weekly) usually confines his benign musings to audio or video. This week, the former Football Italia host has deemed Italy’s latest crisis sufficiently important to take to a keyboard. Groovy.

By “latest crisis”, I mean to allude to 2006. In the middle of calciopoli, Italy won World Cup 2006. If you bleed Azzurri blue, you might look at that data point and suggest Italy plays its best soccer under fire. Bring on the investigation, somebody (somewhere) is saying. Our team plays better when they’re under pressure.

To which I’d retort: “What team?”

In soccer years, it’s been a long time since Italy was good. How long? Well, way back when Italy was a factor at major tournaments (2006), Zinadine Zidane was still playing. Michael Owen had just returned from Real Madrid, Manchester City’s top scorer was Andy Cole, and Giuseppe Rossi had just debuted … for Manchester United.

Since 2006, it’s been all downhill for the four-time world champions. They barely make it out of what was ultimately (and surprisingly) a bad group at Euro 2008. They didn’t make it out of their group in World Cup 2010, and drawn in the same group as Spain, Croatia and Ireland, there’s a good chance they won’t get out of their group in Euro 2012.

Head coach Cesare Prandelli has no choice but to select an unremarkable collection of talent that reflects a stoic period in Italian player development. Perhaps in Brazil the likes of Mario Balotelli and Sebastian Giovinco will be the finished product. In Poland, their most accomplished attacker is 34-year-old Toto Di Natale (10 goals in 36 appearances).

At best, Italy is an underdog to beat out Croatia (who has never lost to Italy) for Group C’s second quarterfinal spot. Even if we factor in a “coming together” factor, they still look like a team riding an expired reputation. Unless Slaven Bilic’s Croatia plays to his country’s unreasonably low expectations, Italy’s in line for another major competition disappointment.

And all that is before factoring in yesterday’s news. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Domenico Criscito, who has spent over two years as Italy’s first choice left back, was forced to pull out of the squad after his room was searched by police in an early Monday raid. You can’t help but feel that were he not part of the team slatted for Euro 2012, he might have been arrest. With Criscito’s Genoa home also combed-over by authorities, it may only be a matter of time (part of the reason for withdrawing).

According to the Italian soccer federation (the FIGC), Criscito’s maintaining his innocence. He’s also sorry about the distraction he’s brought the team, part of an obligatory response. What’s he supposed to say? That the team thrives amid controversy? And he’s going the squad a service?

Best case scenario, for Italy: Criscito is as innocent as he claims, and his absence ends up being inconsequential. No team wants to lose a starter, but Italy’s got options. Giorgio Chiellini is a natural central defender, but he’s coming off a great year on the left for Juventus. The team also has Palermo’s Federico Balzaretti, one of Serie A’s best left backs. Are either of them Criscito? Over Italy’s three crucial group stage games, there may not be a difference.

The distraction of Criscito, however, could have taken the team down. The margins are so thin for Italy, a team that will have to break their Croatia cruse if they’re to make the quarterfinals. Having Criscito around may have provided a slight benefit on the pitch, but off the field, it could have undermined the entire tournament.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Latest Posts
  1. Europa League Preview: Everton head to Russia, Spurs host Besiktas

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Everton - Premier League Getty Images

    To expect a walk-through against Krasnodar would be a mistake and one the Toffees could pay dearly for.

  2. Asamoah Gyan sees straight red card, accuses opponent of racial abuse

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:28 PM EDT

    FBL-ASIA-C1-AL AIN-AL HILAL Getty Images

    It’s been a rough go of it lately for Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan.

  3. Dani Alves says England is his next stop – Where will he end up?

    Oct 1, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    Will we be seeing Dani Alves in Paris next season? Getty Images

    Alves is ready to move to the Premier League. So what clubs might he fit in?

  4. New England Revolution ink partnership deal with Sporting Clube de Portugal

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:58 PM EDT

    Courtesy: Sporting Clube de Portugal Courtesy: Sporting Clube de Portugal

    A great deal for the Revs, who will be able to add Sporting players on loan much like NYCFC can add Manchester City players.

  5. Report: Diego Maradona nearing deal to manage Palestinian National Team

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT

    Diego Maradona Holds a Press Conference In Rome Getty Images

    Maradona pledged his support for the Palestinian cause back in 2012.

  6. Three things we learned after Liverpool’s latest defeat, this time vs. Basel

    Oct 1, 2014, 6:14 PM EDT

    FC Basel 1893 v Liverpool FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Liverpool’s struggles continue. Here’s three things we learned as they remain winless in four.

  7. Galatasaray fans light up Emirates Stadium with flares in Arsenal match

    Oct 1, 2014, 5:51 PM EDT

    Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez

    Take in a top-flight football match anywhere in Turkey and you’ll be hard-pressed not to see at least a few flares among the fans.

  8. UEFA Champions League roundup: Arsenal cruise, Liverpool lose, Real Madrid win

    Oct 1, 2014, 5:11 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-LUDOGORETS-REAL AP

    After eight games on Wednesday, here’s what happened around Europe.

  9. Arsenal 4-1 Galatasaray: Welbeck’s hat-trick leads 10-man Arsenal to victory

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez AP

    The Gunners provided one of their most stunning performances of the season on Wednesday, dismantling Group D opponents Galatasaray 4-1.

  10. FC Basel 1-0 Liverpool: Streller sinks Reds in Switzerland

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:42 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-BASEL-LIVERPOOL AP

    Lackluster Liverpool now level on points with Basel, face Real Madrid in next two matches.

  11. Hat-Trick Hero: Danny Welbeck nails three in thumping of Galatasaray

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-ARSENAL-GALATASARAY Getty Images

    “He scores when he wants. He scores when he wants. Danny Welbeck, he scores when he wants.”

  12. Arsenal cruise to 3-0 halftime lead over Galatasaray through Welbeck, Sanchez

    Oct 1, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    Arsenal FC v Galatasaray AS - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    A first-half brace from Danny Welbeck and a third from Alexis Sanchez handed Arsenal some breathing room against Galatasaray.

  13. UEFA Champions League, at the half: Arsenal flying, Real Madrid being held

    Oct 1, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    Alexis Sanchez, Felipe Melo AP

    Arsenal are flying, so too are Leverkusen. Check out all the half time scores, here.

  14. Follow Live: UEFA Champions League – Arsenal v. Galatasaray

    Oct 1, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT

    Arsenal's new Chilean forward could become a hero at the Emirates. AP

    The Gunners opened the Champions League group stage in disappointing form, losing 2-0 to BVB.

  15. Follow live: UEFA Champions League – Basel vs. Liverpool

    Oct 1, 2014, 2:24 PM EDT

    Liverpool FC v PFC Ludogorets Razgrad - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Can the Reds make it two wins from two in the Champions League?

  16. Zenit St. Petersburg 0-0 Monaco: Group C leaders cancel each other out

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:56 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-ZENIT-MONACO AP

    Zenit, Monaco remain top of Group C after a dour draw in Saint Petersburg.

  17. Report: Red Bull’s days in MLS are likely numbered

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:38 PM EDT

    Henry AP

    Thierry Henry may be on his way out of New York City as turmoil at the top could drive him out.

  18. Roma tags Manchester City back for Totti tweet

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT

    Totti Getty Images

    The two sides had some internet fun after yesterday’s 1-1 Champions League draw.

  19. FIFA exec says they are looking into reducing Luis Suarez’s ban

    Oct 1, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT

    Suarez Getty Images

    The former president of CONMEBOL told Uruguayan TV that Suarez could return earlier than expected.

Featured video

PST Extra: Will Man United miss Rooney?