Michel Platini admits ‘skulduggery’ to rig 1998 World Cup draw

We weren’t going to go through the bother of six years organizing the World Cup if we could not pull off a few little tricks said we weren’t going to go through the bother of six years organizing the World Cup if we could not pull off a few little tricks admitted Michel Platini. (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 May 2018

Michel Platini admits ‘skulduggery’ to rig 1998 World Cup draw

  • We organized the schedule so, if we finished first in our group and Brazil first in theirs, the teams could not meet before the final: Platini
  • 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

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 organizing committee president.
“We organized the schedule so, if we finished first in our group and Brazil first in theirs, the teams could not meet before the final,” France great Platini told Radio Bleu Sport in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday, highlights of which the station tweeted on Friday.
The revelation comes at a time when Platini is banned from football for receiving a “disloyal payment” of two million Swiss francs (1.7 million euros, $2 million) when he was head of UEFA from disgraced former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
The draw took place in Marseille on December 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 organizing 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,” said Platini.
Brazil were placed in Group A and France in Group C, ensuring they wouldn’t meet until the final, as long as both won their group.
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 Africans Nigeria missing out.
Ahead of the draw, Zagallo had complained that French organizers 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 — a fairly easy draw by anyone’s standards.
But their bitter rivals Argentina drew the only group with just one European team, Croatia, as well as Jamaica and Japan.
France got Denmark, South Africa and Saudi Arabia, finished top and then beat Paraguay, Italy (on penalties) and Croatia on route to the final, playing both their quarter-final and semifinal at the Stade de France national stadium where the title-decider would also be held.
Brazil won their group and beat Chile, Denmark and the Netherlands (on penalties) before losing the final 3-0 to France.
While teams had been allocated to specific groups at previous tournaments, it had typically been to keep apart countries from the same continental federation.
At Italia 1990, when there were just 24 teams in six groups of four, the top seeds were assigned in an way that kept Italy in Rome and had the added bonus for organizers that England, and their notorious fans, were isolated on Sardinia.
England were placed in the “London group” at both the 1966 World Cup and Euro 96, ensuring they would play all their games at Wembley.


Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

Updated 10 December 2019

Free-scoring Salzburg pose serious threat to leaky Liverpool

  • Injury-hit Reds have consistently leaked goals despite streaking clear at the top of Premier League

LONDON: Liverpool travel to Salzburg on Tuesday needing to avoid defeat to the confident Austrian champions to guard against an embarrassing Champions League group stage exit for the holders.

Jurgen Klopp's men are used to getting through to the knockout stages the hard way. In each of the past two seasons they have needed home wins to secure a place in the last 16 before going on to make the final.

However, the specter of a free-scoring Salzburg, led by the Champions League's top scorer in Erlin Braut Haaland spells trouble for an injury-hit Liverpool backline that has consistently leaked goals this season despite streaking clear at the top of the Premier League.

The Reds' recorded a first clean sheet in 14 games in Saturday's 3-0 win at Bournemouth, but lost another center back as Dejan Lovren limped off in the first half.

Should the Croatian miss the trip to Austria, Joe Gomez will be Klopp's only fit partner for Virgil van Dijk in central defense.

Van Dijk narrowly missed out to Lionel Messi in the battle for the Ballon d'Or last week in recognition of the transformative effect he has had on Liverpool's fortunes over the past two years.

But even the towering Dutchman has been incapable of stopping the steady flow of goals against in recent months.

Injuries have meant there has been a constant rotation of Lovren, Gomez and Joel Matip alongside Van Dijk, while the attacking impetus offered by fullbacks Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold leaves space in behind to be exploited.

Goalkeeper Alisson Becker also missed the first two months of the season due to a calf injury to further unsettle the backline.

The Brazilian is now back, but another injury to Fabinho has robbed the back four of the best player to protect them in the holding midfield role.

"I forgot how it feels, to be honest," said Klopp on finally ending the long wait for a clean sheet at the weekend.

"It's great, we should have them more often. It was the most-used word in the dressing room by the boys — "clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet."

"Obviously everybody was desperate for that, now we have it so let's have it more often.

"The next game where a clean sheet would be useful is already around the corner, against Salzburg on Tuesday."

That is easier said than done as Liverpool know from their first meeting with Jesse Marsch's men in October.

The hosts seemed to be cruising to another Anfield win in the Champions League as they raced into a 3-0 lead, but Salzburg hit back to level at 3-3 before Mohamed Salah's winner ensured Liverpool edged a seven-goal thriller.

Salzburg have scored 87 goals in 24 games in all competitions this season, 28 of which have come from Norwegian wonderkid Haaland in just 21 appearances.

The 19-year-old started on the bench when the sides met at Anfield due to injury, but came on to inspire the visitors' revival in the second half and scored one of his eight Champions League goals.

"He's not the only threat from Salzburg but he's a proper one," said Klopp of the danger posed by Haaland ahead of the sides' first clash.

Salzburg need to win to make the last 16 on their first appearance in the group stage in 25 years.

A point would be enough for Liverpool to progress, but they need to win to secure top spot in Group E ahead of Napoli.

Given Liverpool's paucity of clean sheets and Salzburg's thirst for goals, attack would appear to be the best form of defencse for the European champions.