How many people were surprised Juventus won their last Champions League group match, at Shakhtar Donetsk, last Wednesday? A large number, it seems.
Yes, Shakhtar's home record is formidable. And Juventus had taken only two points from their previous away games in Group E. But, above all, the situation was such that a draw would have suited both teams. It would have kept Shakhtar, already through, at the top of the group and ensured Juventus's progress, even if Chelsea won their last match, as they did.
Hence a widespread assumption that a mutual expediency of a draw would lead Shakhtar and Juve to an unspoken collusion.
That Juve pressed enough for victory, and won 1-0, made two important statements. First, it showed their ambition. Second, Juventus showed they are not a club who collude, this coming in the week their coach, Antonio Conte, returned to the touchline after a four-month suspension imposed because, while at a previous club, Conte was deemed to have failed to report a possible case of collusion involving players in his team and an opposing one, linked to a betting scam.
Obtaining a mutually convenient result is a long way from match-fixing, but they are poles of the same continuum.
And the more Italian football, from authorities to coaches to players, makes it clear it will not tolerate anything less than full-blooded competitiveness, in all circumstances, in all matches, the better it wipes out the idea it is corruptible.
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