Platini admits rigging 1998 World Cup draw

PARIS • Disgraced Michel Platini has sensationally admitted to a "little skulduggery" in rigging the draw to ensure Brazil and France could not meet until the final of the 1998 World Cup, where he was organising committee president.

"We organised the schedule so, if we finished first in our group and Brazil first in theirs, the teams could not meet before the final," the France great told Radio Bleu Sport in an interview to be broadcast tomorrow, highlights of which the station tweeted yesterday.

The revelation comes at a time when Platini is banned from football for receiving a "disloyal payment" of 2 million Swiss francs (S$2.7 million) when he was head of Uefa from disgraced former Fifa president Sepp Blatter.

The draw took place in Marseille on Dec 4, 1997, and was presided over by Fifa's then-general secretary Blatter.

"Look, we were at home, you have to make the most of things, we weren't going to go through the bother of six years organising the World Cup if we could not pull off a few little tricks," said Platini, a former midfield star for Saint Etienne, Juventus and France.

"Do you think other hosts didn't do the same at their World Cups?"

A France-Brazil final "was everyone's dream", added Platini, 62.

Brazil were placed in Group A and France in Group C, ensuring they would not meet until the final, as long as both won their groups.

Not everyone was happy with the fairly transparent plan, though. At the time, the selection process of top seeds for the eight groups had provoked accusations of a "European conspiracy" by then-Brazil coach Mario Zagallo.

Following frantic negotiations behind the scenes, six European countries and two South Americans - Brazil and Argentina - were picked, with Africa's Nigeria missing out.

Ahead of the draw, Zagallo had complained that French organisers would "do everything to ensure Brazil are not world champions", insisting the seeding process was fixed to ensure the Selecao would face two European sides in the group stages. They drew Norway and Scotland as well as Morocco.

France got Denmark, South Africa and Saudi Arabia, finished top and then beat Paraguay, Italy and Croatia en route to the final, playing both their quarter-final and semi-final at the Stade de France where the title-decider was also held.

Brazil won their group and beat Chile, Denmark and the Netherlands before losing the final 3-0 to France.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2018, with the headline 'Platini admits rigging 1998 World Cup draw'. Print Edition | Subscribe