Platini: WCup draw helping France was FIFA idea

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.