BY DAN KARELL
At a press conference in The Hague, in the Netherlands, the European Police announced that after investigating more than 700 football matches across Europe, they found 380 of them to have been fixed, including Champions League, World Cup qualifiers, and European Cup qualifying matches.
Europol, which had been leading the investigation for the last 18 months, has already made 50 arrests, and they have a list of 425 suspects, which include match officials, club representatives, players, and other criminals involved in the game.
The organization believes that a crime syndicate in Asia had organized the operation, and that the alleged criminals were making upwards of €8 million profit on each match that was rigged. Europol also announced that the match-fixing had been taking place in over 15 European countries.
Here are some more stories to get your Monday kicked off:
INJURIES FORCE DROPOUTS FOR FRIENDLY MATCHES THIS WEEK
Following a busy weekend of club football, international football will take center stage this Wednesday, though it is likely to do so without some of the world’s best on the pitch.
During Barcelona’s 1-1 draw on Sunday with Valencia, midfielder Xavi Hernandez picked up a thigh injury, ruling him out of Spain’s match against Uruguay. Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger picked up an ankle knock on Saturday, forcing him to miss Germany’s match against France, and on the other side, new star Raphael Varane injured his left hamstring in Real Madrid’s match on Saturday, forcing him to withdraw.
England, who are to play Brazil on Wednesday, could be without the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Jermaine Defoe, and Michael Carrick, after all three picked up injuries this past weekend.
WEST AFRICAN NATIONS REIGN SUPREME
The semifinals African Cup of Nations is set, with the final four teams all hailing from West Africa. Nigeria put their past struggles behind them in a 2-1 victory over Didier Drogba and Ivory Coast, whilst Burkina Faso equaled their farthest run ever in the competition as they beat Togo 1-0 in extra time.
In the former match, Nigeria and Ivory Coast presented a matchup of top players, many of whom are starring for their respective clubs in Europe. The Nigerians scored first, two minutes before halftime, when Emmanuel Emenike powered home an in-direct free kick. Just five minutes after halftime, the Elephants followed the Nigerian’s strike with a goal of their own, as Newcastle’s Cheick Tiote headed home a free kick from Drogba.
Finally, the Super Eagles went in front for the final time, when Sunday Mba’s left footed shot in the 78th minute took a deflection, and looped over the helpless Ivory Coast goalkeeper, Boubacar Barry, and into the net. Nigeria held on to win, and will now take on Seydou Keita and Mali on February 6.
In the second match of the day, Burkina Faso and Togo were deadlocked in what seemed to be a classic draw between two equal teams. The best chance of regulation football came just following the halftime break, when Togo captain Emmanuel Adebayor’s header was cleared off the line at the last moment by Burkina Faso’s Saidou Panandetiguiri.
The Stallions of Burkina Faso finally got on the board, when Jonathan Pitroipa’s near post header careened across the line, off the crossbar, in the 105th minute. Burkina Faso would hold on, and move onto the semifinals where they will play Ghana on February 6.
COLOMBIA WINS SOUTH AMERICAN YOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP
With a 2-1 victory over Paraguay last night, Colombia has earned the crown of South American champions at the Under-20 level. The Colombian side, which won four and lost one in the final stage of the CONMEBOL competition, earns their third title in the tournament’s history, and can carry a massive amount of momentum over to Turkey for this summer’s Under-20 World Cup.
Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile also qualified for the World Cup, outplaying Ecuador, which finished bottom of the final stage group with no points, and Peru, which finished on five points.
Uruguayan forward Nicolas Lopez, who plies his trade for AS Roma, won the Golden Boot by scoring six times over the course of the continental tournament.
Many international squads were announced over the weekend. Here are some that you might have missed.
Liverpool FC midfielder Steven Gerrard was awarded England Player of the Year at a ceremony Sunday evening at the English FA’s headquarters. (REPORT)
Manchester United have announced plans to play a friendly match in Hong Kong on July 29. (REPORT)
Former President of Real Sociedad, Inaki Badiola, said that the club may have been part of a doping scandal in the six years prior to his presidency, which began in 2008. (REPORT)
What do you make of these reports? Are you surprised about the news about European match-fixing? Do you think that there will be more findings in the following weeks and months? Are you worried about injuries to key players on some of the national teams?
Share your thoughts below.