Italians bitter on 'biscotto'

Italy's players greet supporters after their Euro 2012 match ended in a tie against Croatia in...

Italy's players greet supporters after their Euro 2012 match ended in a tie against Croatia in Poznan, Poland, on June 14, 2012. (Tony Gentile/Reuters)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:50 AM ET

WARSAW - Italians love the "biscotto."

It's delectable with everything -- coffee, tea, wine, hot chocolate or simply by itself.

What Italians don't like to pair biscotto with is soccer. Soccer with biscotto leaves Italians with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Biscotto is known in North American as well but only as a culinary delicacy. It is that twice-baked, hard cookie that can have anything from almonds to cranberries to chocolate in it

But in soccer terms biscotto means something not so enticing. It means that two teams are cooking something up in the kitchen that's good for them and not for anyone else.

Italy is worried it has to deal with a biscotto when the final games of Group C are played.

Italian newspapers are asking their readers if they believe Croatia and Spain will be cooking up a biscotto game so that both those teams can assure themselves of going through to the next round.

With Italy at two points, Croatia and Spain at four apiece, there is a good possibility all three teams could wind up with five points. Italy plays Ireland in its last game and Ireland already has been eliminated.

In the long and detailed tiebreaking system UEFA uses to determine which teams advance, it works out that if Spain and Croatia play to a 2-2 or higher draw, there is nothing Italy can do to advance from the group.

Now no one is suggesting the two teams will get together in a dark room and plan to play a 2-2 tie. It wouldn't be that obvious. But all three teams are aware of what it will take to move on.

No need to shake hands but we understand each other don't we, nudge, nudge wink, wink.

Italy has been burned by the biscotto game before.

In 2004 the Danes and Swedes gave the cookie to Italy.

Italy needed to beat Bulgaria to move on. The only thing that would have prevented the Italians from going through was if the Danes and Swedes played to a 2-2 tie in their final game.

A goal by Antonio Cassano in the 94th minute gave Italy the win. Moments later the final score was announced between Denmark and Sweden -- 2-2.

"Someone should be ashamed and it's not us," Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said.

He, along with Cassano and Andrea Pirlo, are the only three players in Poland who played in that 2004 tournament.

Baking the biscotto game is something many teams have had happen to them.

One of the worse incidents of cooking things up between two teams occurred in the 1982 World Cup.

West Germany had been stunned in the group stage by Algeria.

Germany played Austria in the final game. The only result that could prevent Algeria from becoming the first African nation to move into the second round of a World Cup was a 1-0 German victory. West Germany and Austria would then both go through.

The Germans scored in the first 10 minutes of the game. Both team basically stood around for the other 80 minutes.

It was one of the most disgusting exhibitions ever seen in the game.

Is there a biscotto cooking up right now in the Croatian and Spanish kitchens?

We'll have to wait to see how the biscotto crumbles.

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