Disgraced Platini Admits To Draw Shenanigans To Help France Win 1998 World Cup

In 1998, France won its only World Cup title, defeating Brazil 3-0 in the final at the Stade de France just outside of Paris. It was the culmination of an impressive tournament for Les Bleus and the perfect way for the country to win its first World Cup on home soil. Apparently, it was too perfect, according to France’s Michel Platini.

Currently serving a four-year ban from football along with Sepp Blatter for some illegal payments, Michel Platini came out Friday to claim France fixed the World Cup draw ahead of the 1998 tournament to ensure France wouldn’t have to face defending champion Brazil until the final. 

“We didn't bust our balls organizing a World Cup for six years to not be able to do a little trickery,” Platini said, arrogant and oblivious as ever. 

Michel Platini is one of France’s greatest players, winning the Ballon d’Or three times. After his playing career and a four-year stint as France manager, Platini began his career as an administrator, eventually ascending to UEFA president.

In 1998, Michel Platini was the co-chief of the organizing committee for the 1998 World Cup in France, which was the first World Cup to include 32 teams. With eight groups instead of six, it was the first time seeded teams weren’t pre-placed into groups ahead of the draw. But, according to Platini, France lobbied FIFA to make sure the host and defending champion would not play until the final if both teams won their respective groups. 

Then-FIFA president Joao Havelange, the predecessor of ultimate creep Sepp Blatter, agreed. Brazil, as defending champion, was placed in Group A. Host France was placed in Group C. By the predetermined format, if both won their groups or finished second, they would be placed on opposite sides of the bracket, which is exactly what happened. 

“We did a little trickery,” Platini said. “You have to organize the fixture list. So, we did it so that if France and Brazil were first, they wouldn't meet before the final. We were at home so we took advantage of things.”

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Platini speaks with such audacity and insolence. He’s already been banned from FIFA for receiving $2 million from Sepp Blatter (who was also banned), so perhaps the 62-year-old feels he has nothing to lose. But to openly admit to cheating 20 years ago is shocking, even by FIFA standards.

FIFA never ceases to amaze us. FIFA corruption is to soccer media what Donald Trump is to late night comedians, providing an endless parade of stories that simultaneously make us say “wtf” and “that sounds about right.” 

The World Cup is supposed to be the one pure global soccer event, where triumphs are proof of footballing prowess, not money or back-room shenanigans. And yet at the same time I don’t think anyone could claim to be surprised that this happened. 

In fact, Michel Platini claimed this was normal. According to L’Equipe, the FIFA allowed 1994 World Cup host United States to choose in which cities some big countries would play. For example, Italy played all three group-stage matches on the East Coast, close to the large population of Italian-Americans. France reportedly wanted to do something similar in 1998, but was not allowed — so FIFA put its foot down on geographical placement but not draw and competitive transparency. 

Since the 1998 World Cup, the draw and team placement have been done differently. While 2002 was unique because there were two hosts (Japan and South Korea), starting in 2006, only the host country has been placed in a predetermined group (Group A), with no preference to the defending champion. While seeds keep the best teams from being placed in the same groups, anything can happen in the knockout rounds. 

France had a spectacular run in 1998. Les Bleus dominated their group with three wins by a 9-1 margin. The knockout rounds were a bit more difficult for the host, but a stunning 3-0 win over Brazil left little doubt that France was a deserving champion

But Michel Platini, who helped France to two semifinal appearances in the ’80s, has cast aspersions on the legitimacy of his country’s only World Cup championship. Typical FIFA. 

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