Could the World Cup be rigged?

Revelations by much maligned ex-UEFA president Michel Platini concerning “trickery” in the World Cup draw in 1998 has brought up many questions from football fans all over the World. Given the corrupted nature of FIFA and how the two most powerful persons in football at the time Sepp Blatter and Platini himself were banned from the game, we could not help wonder how much trickery is actually involved in the showcase tournament of the sports we all love.

There was a little trickery. We did not spend six years organising the World Cup to not do some little shenanigans. Do you think other World Cup hosts did not? – Michel Platini

Platini proceeds to explain that the trickery was used to force a France v Brazil final. At the time, Brazilian coach Zagallo was very vocal about how Europe would do anything to prevent his team from winning the World Cup. In the end, Brazil had an easy group and did not necessarily get a harder path to the final than France. However, we cannot keep wondering what would have happened for Les Bleus without any trickery.

Sepp Blatter denied that the draw for France 1998 was rigged and expressed his incredulity as to why Platini was making such claims. However, according to the Sun, Blatter himself mentioned that at Euro 2016, again held in France, the draw was clean until the end, where he suggests hot balls may have been used. Ball temperature is a classic way of rigging draws. For example: you can easily refrigerate balls for weaker teams before the draw and warm up the balls for favorites and then the person picking them knows where to place weaker teams.

Related: ManUtd slowly overcoming post-Fergie malaise under Mourinho

More anomalies can be seen in World Cup 1966 and Euro 1996, where it was ensured that England would play all their games in London. At Italy 1990, the hosts ensured they played all their games in Rome. Germany also enjoyed a relatively easy group in 2006. In 2002, hosts Japan and South Korea very conveniently had groups where they could atleast finish second and qualify for the knockout stages.

In this year’s World Cup, hosts Russia were placed in Group A with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are two of the weakest teams at the tournament. Saudi Arabia is well known for getting trounced by their opponents in World Cup games.  Is it coincidental that Russia played Saudi Arabia and Egypt in the first two games? Or could it be Platini is right about every host nation cheating a little bit to tip the odds slightly in their favor?

With enough money, anything can be rigged. We just hope the best competition in the World is not being marred beyond a “little trickery” in favor of the hosts.

Related: Karim Benzema dug his own grave with Les Bleus

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