England’s World Cup qualifying group has been subjected to claims of “suspicious betting”, after irregular patterns during Malta’s defeat to Lithuania three weeks ago were flagged up to FIFA.
A FIFA official visited the Malta dressing-room shortly before their World Cup qualifier with Lithuania to inform them of suspicious betting patterns. It has subsequently been reported that betting syndicates staked millions on Malta to lose by two goals or more.
For the time being there have been no suggestions that Spanish referee Jesύs Gil Manzano, his team of officials, or any of the players are guilty of any wrongdoing. However, suspicions arose due to the fact that the game was goalless until the 75th minute and Malta had zero shots on target with a 35% share of possession for the entire match.
Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg confirmed that the players were alerted before the match, and told The Sun: “It was strange and felt very uncomfortable as if we were being accused of cheating. I knew I’d done absolutely nothing wrong and had no idea what they were talking about.
“In the event, there was nothing I could do about the goals. I made three or four good saves which show I was doing my best. I have absolutely nothing to hide.”
A spokesperson from the Malta Football Association reiterated Hogg’s explanation, adding that he has “never seen this before” and that it was not “appropriate to happen just before the game”.
Nonetheless, Hogg added in his interview that he “can see why people would be suspicious and it is a sad situation”. Although this ongoing situation could prove difficult for the team in the future as “no one knows what might happen next”.