Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Pato: Euro 2012 success can ease Italian 'suffering'

updated 9:42 AM EDT, Wed June 27, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • AC Milan star Alexandre Pato says Euro 2012 can save Italy's tainted reputation in football
  • Brazilian forward believes winning the tournament would change Italian game
  • Scores of football figures have been arrested in latest Italian match-fixing scandal
  • Defender Domenico Criscito withdrew from squad before Euro 2012 after police raid

(CNN) -- Italy's soccer players can heal the "suffering" caused by the country's match-fixing scandal by winning Euro 2012, says AC Milan star Alexandre Pato.

The Brazilian forward, who has played in Serie A since he was 17, says an Azzurri victory in Poland and Ukraine could rejuvenate Italian football following a year blighted by corruption allegations.

The team's Euro 2012 preparations were disrupted by a police raid on their training base four days before the start of the tournament, as several prominent football figures were arrested in connection with a match-fixing and betting investigation.

The scandal prompted manager Cesare Prandelli to admit his team could pull out of the competition, but instead they have thrived and will face Germany in the semifinals on Thursday.

"What happened with the match fixing and the betting, it was really bad. Italian football has suffered a lot and we as players have suffered a lot," said Pato, who moved to Milan from Brazilian club Internacional for $32 million in 2007.

"But who knows... Italy in Euro 2012 can turn it around so that Italian football can change and come back to world-class standards."

The "suffering" described by Pato struck at the very core of Prandelli's team, which beat England in a penalty shootout on Sunday to reach the last four.

Football culture: Who are you? Warrior or tika taka technician?

Italy: The curse of the Euro
Who will win Euro 2012?
Can Ronaldo fire Portugal to Euro glory?

Full-back Domenico Criscito pulled out of Italy's squad on May 29 after being questioned by officials probing gambling markets linked to fixing results of matches in Serie A.

Nineteen others were arrested, 11 of them players in Italy's top division, in the ongoing investigation by magistrates in the city of Cremona.

The arrests were the latest in a long-running saga that has severely damaged Italian football.

Seventeen people were arrested in a similar swoop last year, including former Lazio star Giuseppe Signori and ex-Italy striker Cristiano Doni, who was subsequently banned from the game for three and a half years.

The allegations initially centered on the lower Italian football leagues but the latest police sweep indicates that suspicion has also fallen on the most high-profile teams.

Italy reach semifinals after penalty kicks drama

Meanwhile, Pato believes that on the pitch Italy's current squad can compete with Europe's best sides -- and possibly cause an upset against the highly fancied Germans.

"Most people didn't expect Italy to get this far," said the 22-year-old, who will be representing Brazil at the London 2012 Olympics.

"Germany and Spain are really strong. Portugal has surprised me; they have Cristiano (Ronaldo) who is playing really well. But I'm going to root for Italy to get to the final, and I hope they can win it."

It wouldn't be the first time the Italy team had triumphed in the face of adversity.

The Azzurri won the 2006 World Cup in the wake of the Calciopoli match fixing scandal, which saw Turin giants Juventus relegated to the second tier and stripped of two league titles.

The repercussions of the latest corruption investigation are uncertain, but a repeat performance from the national side would go a long way to lifting the shadow hanging over one of Europe's great football nations.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:26 PM EDT, Fri June 29, 2012
Sunday's Euro 2012 final in Kiev pits holders Spain against Italy, between them the winners of the last two World Cups.
updated 10:26 AM EDT, Thu August 22, 2013
Euro 2012: Images from 13th European Championships being held in Poland and Ukraine.
updated 10:47 AM EDT, Fri June 29, 2012
Can English football reinvent its "warrior" style to emulate the success of freeflowing football nations such as Spain and Germany?
updated 8:02 AM EDT, Fri June 22, 2012
Germany Greece
The Germany-Greece quarterfinal at Euro 2012 is just one example of when political and sporting lines become blurred.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Wed June 20, 2012
CNN's panel of football experts look at the Euro 2012 contenders ahead of the quarterfinal stage.
With Euro 2012's group stage now over, CNN's Pedro Pinto picks out his highlights of the action in Poland and Ukraine.
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Tue June 19, 2012
Nicklas Bendtner could be in trouble for his choice of underwear.
UEFA's decision to fine Nicklas Bendtner for revealing a sponsor's name on his underpants during Euro 2012 may have opened a can of worms.
CNN's Alex Thomas wonders how such an exciting football team as Spain could become, as heretical as it may seem to say... boring.
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Thu June 14, 2012
Fighting in the streets of Warsaw during the opening week of Euro 2012 is a stark reminder that football's "disease" has not been cured.
CNN's Amanda Davies argues that footballers are picked for their sporting ability, not because they can do justice to their national song.
updated 9:46 AM EDT, Fri June 8, 2012
Poland kicked off Euro 2012 as one of the underdogs. It is a far cry from the days when the nation was one of the most feared teams in world soccer.
updated 1:59 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
Euro 2012: Guess the tattoos
Euro 2012 is almost upon us and Europe's finest footballers will be marked men -- in more ways than one.
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
CNN World Sport looks at the challenges that teams and host countries Poland and Ukraine faced to get to the Euro 2012 cup.
updated 11:51 AM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
As national teams arrive in Poland and Ukraine, will the tournament be a football success or overshadowed by racism?
updated 3:17 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
A picture taken at Donetsk airport on June 6, 2012, shows flags reading Euro 2012 logo two days ahead of the Euro 2012 football championships opening in Warsaw. France will play its first match on June 11 against England.
If the pre-vote predictions had been accurate, football heavyweights Italy would be preparing to host the 2012 European Championship.
CNN's Pedro Pinto predicts who will fly and who will flop at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Have your say here.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Wed June 6, 2012
Portugal have never won a major tournament at senior level, could this be the year the Euro 2012 underdogs shine?
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
Some of Europe's best footballers will be missing in Poland and Ukraine this month, as the effects of another grueling season takes its toll.
updated 4:40 PM EDT, Tue June 5, 2012
Can defending European champions Spain retain their title in Poland and Ukraine? CNN's Pedro Pinto reports.
updated 3:02 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
Euro 2012 is nearly here and the 16 competing nations have announced the final 23-man squads.
updated 4:57 AM EDT, Fri June 22, 2012
Check out who is playing who, and where, as 16 teams compete at the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine.
updated 3:20 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
The spotlight is on Ukrainian and Polish fans after a BBC investigation alleged racism was prevalent in the stands
Euro 2012 hosts Ukraine and Poland have told CNN a documentary accusing fans from both nations of racism was "unbalanced and biased."
updated 1:10 PM EDT, Fri May 18, 2012
UEFA president Michel Platini tells CNN he thinks Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend the final of Euro 2012 in Ukraine -- if Germany reach it.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Tue May 8, 2012
It was supposed to be a symbol of Ukraine's development, but next month's Euro 2012 tournament has become mired in controversy.
updated 11:34 AM EDT, Mon April 30, 2012
Poland and Ukraine will host the European Championships for the first time in 2012, welcoming 14 other teams and football fans from across the continent.
updated 11:52 AM EST, Fri December 9, 2011
The build-up to next year's finals has truly begun, so here is CNN's guide to our top 10 most memorable European Championship moments.
updated 11:55 AM EST, Fri December 9, 2011
With less than 200 days to go until Euro 2012 football fans across Europe can start to look forward to the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
ADVERTISEMENT