Sun, Aug 12, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Match fixing allegations fuel France-Italy tensions

AFP, PARIS

French national soccer team coach Raymond Domenech gives a press conference in Clairefontaine, northern Paris, on May 29.

PHOTO: AFP

With one month to go before France and Italy meet in their Euro 2008 qualification match the tension has reached boiling point following France coach Raymond Domenech's allegations of match-fixing.

In an interview with French daily Le Parisien this week Domenech alluded to "a referee being bought" during a tie between France and Italy's under-21 sides in 1999. Domenech was coach of the French team at the time.

UEFA president Michel Platini on Friday demanded that fellow countryman Domenech provide proof of his allegations or face sanctions from European soccer's governing body.

In the interview Domenech threw salt into a very fresh wound saying: "It is not me who invented the refereeing sagas in Italy ... There are arrangements made in Italian football."

On Friday Il Corriere della Sera, Italy's most read newspaper, led with a full-scale assault on Domenech with a front page titled "High tension."

The paper said: "Italy-France has started one month early. It is the France coach, with a bad habit of provocation, who has ignited the fire."

Il Corriere its attacks on Domenech writing: "Domenech is scornfully arrogant and touchy, someone who does anything to get what he wants. And in this case it is to raise the tension to the benefit of his team."

Platini insisted that 55-year-old Domenech would be charged with unsporting behavior if he does not back up his allegations.

"We're going to send a letter to the French federation so that Mr Domenech provides us with proof of what he says, and if there is no proof we will penalize him," Platini said.

President of the French football federation Jean-Pierre Escalettes has tried to pour cold water on the rising flames by insisting to his Italian counterpart, Giancarlo Abete, that the comments made by Domenech did not reflect the opinions of the French federation.

"Mr Abete really appreciated the gesture of Escalettes, and has thanked him for quickly intervening in this affair," said the Italian football federation.

France will travel to Italy for their second encounter with the Azzurri in the Euro 2008 qualification stage on Sept. 8, having won the first match 3-1 on home soil last year.

France currently lead Group B of the qualification round, two points ahead of Italy in second.

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