Platini: WCup draw helping France was FIFA idea
COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (AP)
Michel Platini has distanced himself from FIFA's choice of World Cup draw procedure, which appeared to give his native France a better chance in next year's tournament in Brazil.
The UEFA president told reporters Wednesday that he offered to leave the room Monday during talks among confederation leaders about a proposal he said came from FIFA itself.
''I said I would go out of the meeting. They said, `No, there is one proposal and everybody will accept,''' Platini said before a session of the FIFA ruling board.
A lottery will now decide which unseeded European team goes into Pot 2 - sure to face two high-ranked opponents from Europe and South America.
France, the lowest-ranked European qualifier, had been the expected automatic choice because of a precedent set at the 2006 World Cup draw.
Instead, FIFA announced Tuesday that all nine unseeded Europeans would be in the lottery which opens Friday's draw ceremony. The decision increases France's chance of landing in a less tough group.
''I am not the only Frenchman in FIFA,'' said Platini, who is a vice president of football's world governing body.
The decision surprised officials in the Netherlands, who expected to be securely in all-European Pot 4. Those teams are sure to face only one, seeded opponent from the strong UEFA and Conmebol confederations.
A Dutch federation (KNVB) official said its lawyers had even checked whether the FIFA decision was allowed.
''In the rules of the tournament, it's possible for, in this case, the tournament organizers to make this decision. You can't change it,'' KNVB director of professional football Bert van Oostveen told national broadcaster NOS.
He suggested that FIFA was undermining the significance of its own monthly rankings of national teams. The October standings were used to determine the World Cup group seeds and the European playoff seedings, which also left France exposed as an unseeded team.
''My question is, what is the value of the FIFA ranking in that decision?'' Van Oostveen said. ''It would have been logical - and I always thought it was the line - to give that position to the lowest-ranked team. In this case that would be France.''
Eight years ago, Serbia and Montenegro was the lowest-ranked of nine unseeded European nations and placed in a separate draw pot. It landed in a strong group with Argentina, the Netherlands and Ivory Coast and lost all three matches.
- Mike Corder in The Hague contributed to this story.