FIFA Concerned About Match-Fixing in 2014 World Cup Group Stage

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2014

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Substandard Brazilian infrastructure and unfinished stadiums are no longer the only problems surrounding the 2014 FIFA World Cup. According to Soccerly's Ian Stewart Palmer, FIFA security chief Ralf Mutschke is worried that match-fixing could infiltrate the global event:

The tournament kicks off on June 12 and winds up on July 13 with the final group games beginning on June 23. Mutschke said those games have the greatest chance of attracting criminal groups since some of the 32 participating nations will already be eliminated from the event by then. He feels players on those teams will be more susceptible to bribes.

While many players involved in the world’s largest sporting event are multimillionaires, many players in some of the poorer countries just manage to get by on their wages. Mutschke stated, “We have a broad variety of different measures to look at the betting market, to make a risk assessment of each single game. The final is probably not at risk. The group stage is a different situation for some of the teams.”

This isn't the first time that Mutschke has presented the idea that the World Cup could be affected by match-fixing. Earlier in the month, he said that both he and FIFA are under the "presumption that the World Cup itself is under threat," per The Telegraph's Ben Rumsby:

"We are trying to protect the World Cup from fixing and we have set up a pretty wide range of measures to do so.”

As well as integrity briefings, those measures will include intelligence-led targeting of high-risk players, referees and fixtures. “We are also indicating the players, the teams and their histories in fixing and making a risk assessment,” Mutschke said. “Is it a group match, is it the first match, is it the end-of-a-group match, is it a final? This indicates the vulnerability.” 

Football fans wouldn't be shocked to hear that match-fixing could creep into the game. Earlier in the year, Sam Sodje and D.J. Campbell were among those linked to a match-fixing probe in League One in England.

The World Cup hasn't been immune to the problem in the past, either, in one form or another.

In 1982, West Germany and Austria agreed to a mutually beneficial 1-0 win for West Germany, at the expense of Algeria. In 2002, controversy abounded about South Korea's quarterfinal win over Spain.

GWANGJU - JUNE 22:  Joaquin (left) of Spain is dejected as he misses the penalty that loses the penalty shoot-out during the FIFA World Cup Finals 2002 Quarter Finals match between Spain and South Korea played at the Gwangju World Cup Stadium, in Gwangju,
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With more money coming into the game, though, the idea of match-fixing on such a large scale seemed to dissipate. Players are getting paid so much money that there's little motivation to actively sabotage a match.

For some of the poorer countries, though, the temptation to fix a match is extremely tempting, even in today's game. These players aren't making five or six figures a week like the biggest stars in the game.

The specter of match-fixing could loom large in Brazil. This is supposed to be the grandest spectacle in sport. You wouldn't want to have something so vile affect the on-field action.

Yet, it's one of many issues that has cropped up in the buildup to the 2014 World Cup, between the stadium delays, lack of transportation, massive budget overruns and huge public outlay from the Brazilians.

Hopefully once the tournament starts, all of these issues will be in the past, and the world can focus on the play on the pitch.