Italy Coach Admits to Gambling Scandal ‘Trauma’ Ahead of England Game

Posted on: October 17, 2023, 05:45h. 

Last updated on: October 18, 2023, 11:02h.

Italy head coach Luciano Spalletti has admitted the gambling scandal engulfing the team made for “traumatic” preparation for the crucial Euro 2024 qualifier. That’s as the Italy soccer team prepares to take the field against England on Tuesday night,

Nicolò Zaniolo, Sandro Tonali, Nicolò Fagioli, Luciano Spalletti, England Vs. Italy
Nicolò Zaniolo, left, and Sandro Tonali won’t feature for the Italian national team against England Tuesday night after being caught up in an illegal gambling scandal. (Image: Getty)

Defensive midfielder Sandro Tonali and attacking midfielder Nicolò Zaniolo are under investigation by police looking into illegal betting. Investigators questioned the duo at Italy’s training camp last Thursday. The players have been sent home from international duty and won’t play against England on Tuesday.

Italian media reported this week that Tonali, who joined EPL club Newcastle this summer from Milan, has admitted to betting on soccer games via an illegal platform. Zaniolo has denied betting on games. But he admitted to playing online poker and blackjack, although he claims he didn’t know the sites he used were illegal. He currently plays for the EPL’s Aston Villa.

Fagioli Wants Plea Deal

The police raid on the training camp came a day after Juventus central midfielder Nicolò Fagioli surrendered to the Turin Prosecutor’s Office to admit to betting on games. Italian media reports he is seeking a plea deal to receive a lighter punishment.

Players found breaking Italian soccer’s rules against betting on games face up to a three-year ban from the sport.

Fagioli made his international debut last November and could have featured against England on Tuesday night were he not already embroiled in the betting scandal.

With this misadventure, we’ve all been affected by this,” Spalletti said in Monday’s prematch press conference, as translated by The Daily Mirror. “We need to move forward. We have to focus on what our goals are. They’re good players. But we can’t depend solely on these players in order to get a result.”

Spalleti said the proceedings had been “traumatic,” especially with police turning up at the training camp. The other players were “surprised and upset.”

“Some of us were able to give [Tonali and Zaniolo] a hug before they went home,” he added. “The players themselves were absolutely distraught because when you are part of a national team, very strong ties and bonds are created.”

Qualification Perilous

Spalleti hopes his players can put these events behind them during a tough game tonight at London’s Wembley Stadium. Lose and qualification for the Euros hangs in the balance.

It would mean that the Azzurri would have to beat Ukraine on the final matchday in a game that will be played in Germany because of the Russo-Ukrainian war.

Despite winning Euro 2020 after beating England on penalties in the final, Italy failed to qualify for the past two World Cups. Missing out on a major competition would pile further trauma on this team and its intensely passionate supporters.