Platini Talks Up England's World Cup Chances; Hails UEFA's EU Relationship

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Platini pours cold water over France’s World Cup chances

Just six weeks before the World Cup kicks off, Michel Platini has added to the mounting pressure on France’s beleagured manager, Raymond Domenech.

Making reference to Domenech’s infamous marriage proposal to his girlfriend live on television after France had been knocked out of the European Championships two years ago, Platini launched a withering attack on the French coach and its prospects in South Africa.

"There's a Raymond problem," Platini said in an interview with Groupe Hersant Media. "A problem of personality, not as a coach. He was hopeless. It was after the Euros with his proposal which hurt the whole of France. People were in pain, sad, and he comes out with his words.

"He knew it, he's acknowledged it - he messed up and that's it. Before being himself, he is the coach of the France team. His duty is to the whole French footballing family."

Although Domenech took France to the 2006 World Cup final, he has endured a difficult relationship with the French media and supporters, who have been critical of the poor football played by his teams and also his personal quirks.

Platini said that he could not see France winning the tournament and limited his ambitions for his countrymen as passing the first stage.

"There are good individuals in the group, but let's be clear, there's no great individual,” he said.

Asked to name his favourites for the tournament he cited Spain, England and Brazil.

"They have the best teams, the best players and it is them who play the best.

"After, we can imagine a second circle with Germany, Italy, Argentina."


Platini hails UEFA’s relationship with Brussels

Platini has also hailed the renewed spirit of cooperation between UEFA and the European Union and says that both sides have recognised the need to move towards a spirit of cooperation.

Writing in the latest edition of the official UEFA publication, Uefa Direct, Platini acknowledges that the relationship between UEFA and the EU was “not established on the best of foundations” but says that things have improved immeasurably as the EU has come to recognise that football is not just another “economic activity” but one that has “huge social value and can act as powerful tools for integration."

"European football's governing body was seen as arrogant and accused of seeking to bypass EC legislation because of the specific nature of sport,” Platini writes.

"UEFA, on the other hand, was irked by the ever-growing interference of the European institutions in matters that football was used to governing itself, in accordance with long-established principles," he added.

"It also bemoaned the fact that sport was generally treated like just any other economic activity, despite the game's professional tier forming only the apex of a pyramid in which all of the other layers are inextricably linked."

Platini said that the turning point was the Bosman Ruling, which the European Court of Justice issued in December 1995. It came after a long-running battle between UEFA and completely liberalised the European transfer market.

The UEFA president said that subsequent to the ruling “football came to realise that it had nothing to gain from confrontation, and that the way forward was through dialogue and greater mutual understanding.”

He added that that there was recognition from Brussels “not only that football and sport cannot simply be defined by their professional tiers, but that they also possess huge social value and can act as powerful tools for integration."

Platini said that this new “serene climate” had already benefited football and pointed to the Lisbon Treaty’s recognition of the “specific nature of sport” was an “important milestone.” Under these terms, the Lisbon Treaty recognizes that freedom of contract in football does have certain limitations and it strengthens the existing transfer system.

Platini also revealed that the European Commission had invited UEFA to contribute to the European pavilion at the World Expo, which opens in Shanghai next month.

"This is a sign of its recognition of the social importance of football," Mr Platini said, "and is something of which we can be very proud."

With reporting by James Corbett (james@worldfootballinsider.com)


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