Italy axe Criscito as 14 are held in match-fixing scandal

Italy’s Euro 2012 campaign was plunged into chaos yesterday when 14 people were arrested for alleged match fixing.

In a major police operation called Last Bet, defender Domenico Criscito was among those quizzed.

The Zenit St Petersburg stopper was immediately booted from the squad for Poland and Ukraine by national boss Cesare Prandelli. Lazio captain Stefano Mauri and former Genoa midfielder Omar Milanetto were also held.domenico criscito Image 2

And Juventus coach Antonio Conte, who led the Turin club to their first Serie A title since they were relegated in 2006 in an earlier match-fixing scandal, is also under investigation.

Former Italy boss Giovanni Trapattoni, whose Republic of Ireland face his countrymen in the Euros, said: “This is a devastating story.

“If the magistrates are doing something it is because there is some truth in this. We give our football an ugly image.

“As an Italian, the first feeling is that we are mocked abroad – we are always linked to illicit dealings and are considered mafia members.

“This only damages us because I can claim to have paid the price for an attitude that affects everyone.

“It’s clear that certain stories provoke anger. But it could also give a push to the team to prove the clean face of football.”

The probe focuses on 33 games – mostly in Serie B – over the past two seasons.

More than 30 homes of players, trainers and officials were searched.

The operation follows a 48-page document released earlier this month by Italian football chiefs that named 22 clubs and 61 individuals in connection with a match-fixing ring and betting investigation.

Seventeen people were arrested by Italian police in 2011, including Atalanta skipper Cristiano Doni, who was banned for three-and-a-half years.

And Atalanta, who had been promoted to Serie A at the end of that campaign, began last term with a six-point deduction as punishment for match fixing.

Prandelli delayed naming his squad but 19-times capped stopper Criscito will not travel to the Euros despite protesting his innocence.

The 25-year-old is accused of acting unlawfully while he was a Genoa player. He was on their books from 2008 until 2011 before moving to Zenit. Police swooped on Italy’s training headquarters in Florence to question him.

But he said: “Match fixing is not something I would do.

“I don’t need money – 20, 30 or 40,000 euros whatever it was – but I don’t need money.

“I do a job I’ve dreamed of doing since I was young and I would not mess it up.

“It hurts that this has happened before the Euros but I’m sure I will come out of this much stronger.”

Italy boss Prandelli didn’t comment. He is scheduled to announce his final squad today ahead of the Azzurri’s friendly against Luxembourg in Parma.

Italian FA president Giancarlo Abete said: “It is a bitter day. This episode brings further sadness.”