Alex McLeish makes stunning revelation. The former national manager revealed he was called by an Italian journalist who claimed UEFA would not allow the Azzurri to be denied a place at the finals.
Former Scotland manager Alex McLeish has suggested his side were cheated out of a place at Euro 2008. Nearly 10 years on from a last-minute defeat to Italy, McLeish has revealed he took a phone call prior to the crucial match telling him that a Scottish victory would not be favoured by UEFA. The Scots’ dream was cruelly ended when the Italians scored from a questionable stoppage-time free-kick. Now McLeish, who himself won 77 caps for his country, has revealed an Italian journalist told him Europe’s governing body would make sure the world champions qualified instead of his team. The former Rangers boss had initially dismissed the claims but his suspicions grew during the match at Hampden in 2007 when a number of decisions favoured the visiting Italian side. The most contentious decision made by Spanish referee Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez was to award a free-kick to Italy in the final moments of the match, despite Scotland full-back Alan Hutton appearing to be the one who was fouled. The Italians headed home from the free-kick to crush Scottish dreams and leave their passionate fans to watch yet another major tournament from home.
In a BBC documentary, McLeish said he still has his suspicions about the refereeing performance. He said: "In the midweek before the game, I got a call from an Italian journalist. She said, 'Do you really think that UEFA will allow France and Italy not to qualify?' I said, 'Wait a minute. This is a bit controversial. We don't say things like that in Scotland’. She said, 'Listen Mr. McLeish, the whole of Italy is talking about this. If there is a 50-50, the referee will favour the Italians and the French'." McLeish insisted the suspicion around the defeat made it even harder to take. He continued: "It was terrible because I was so convinced about it. That's why the disappointment was absolutely devastating". The 57-year-old's feelings were echoed by his players. Speaking after the match, talisman James McFadden said: "I know you are not supposed to say these things but we were robbed by the referee. There have been some dodgy decisions given against us or not gone our way. It goes to prove that we were not wanted at the big championships. People didn't want us to qualify and they got what they wanted".
In recent years, football has been rocked by a series of scandals involving corruption, fraud and money laundering which has struck right at the top of the international game. Fourteen FIFA executives and officials were arrested in May after investigations over a 24-year period. In December last year, both UEFA president, Michel Platini, and FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, were given eight-year bans from football following an ethics investigation. A UEFA spokesman strongly denied allegations of any biased refereeing: "Mistakes may have been made during the game but decisions did go against each team. Mr. Mejuto Gonzalez is a highly ranked referee and one of the best in the world". Referee Mejuto Gonzalez was challenged about his performance two years after the match, but insisted: "I have nothing against Scottish football".
Source: Daily Record
Source: Daily Record