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.
The world governing body was alerted to huge sums of money being placed on the match, which took place on the same night that England drew 0-0 in Slovenia. It has been reported that betting syndicates staked millions on Malta to lose by two or more goals, and that at least one betting-monitoring group already knew that Lithuania would win by the required margin.
The game was goalless until the 75th minute, but Malta had no shots on target in the entire match and just a 35% share of possession. At this stage, there is no suggestion that Spanish referee Jesús Gil Manzano, his team of officials, or any of the players have done anything wrong.
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 FA confirmed: “Some ten minutes before kick-off, just after the warm-up, the official came and read a communication from FIFA. I have never seen this before. It was very strange to have someone come in and say these things. I don’t think it’s appropriate to happen just before the game.”
Malta sit at the bottom of the World Cup qualifying group, with no points from their opening three games. Lithuania are second in Group F, just two points behind leaders England.