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Oct 17, 2013

Moutinho eager to avoid France

Joao Moutinho believes it would not "be good for football" if Portugal and France are paired together in Monday's World Cup playoff draw.

Joao Moutinho would prefer to see Portugal and France kept apart when the final places in Brazil are decided next month.
Joao Moutinho would prefer to see Portugal and France kept apart when the final places in Brazil are decided next month.

With both nations finishing second in their respective qualifying groups, they will go into the draw in Zurich with six other countries knowing they have two games on November 15 and 19 to secure their place in Brazil next summer.

Based on their FIFA ranking, Portugal will be one of four seeds while France -- who will are headed by Ukraine by a single point in the latest rankings -- will not, meaning the two could face each other.

"I don't think Portugal-France would be good for football. These two nations must go to the World Cup. It would be a real shame if we were to meet in the playoffs," Moutinho, 27, told Monaco's official website. "I don't have any particular preference with regard to our potential play-off opponents. Whichever team we come up against, we will have to put in two great performances to earn our place in Brazil."

Moutinho's words were somewhat more measured than those of international teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, who suggested he would not like to play France because "numerous interests are involved in those matches".

"I find it a bit bizarre," responded French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet in an interview with RTL. "Ronaldo is a great player we like very much. I imagine that his words went beyond his thoughts. France respects Portugal, respects that player. They're a great football country. It wouldn't be fun to meet them. Anyway, France is improving, it's ready."

Le Graet did, however, admit the FFF had not been prepared to anticipate Didier Deschamps' men missing out on a seeded place in the draw.

He had declared earlier this week he would raise the matter with FIFA that his country, drawn in the only five-team European qualifying group, had fewer opportunities to earn ranking points than rivals, such as Ukraine, in six-team groups.

L'Equipe reported on Thursday the FFF's demand to review the situation would come to nothing ahead of the draw, citing a FIFA source who pointed out that the rules had been in place since the start of the qualifying campaign in 2012. Le Graet acknowledged his organisation had been caught out.

"We did some little calculations only a few days ago, and saw that there was something incomplete in the rankings. We also thought to be able to be among the four seeds. We didn't envisage being a point short of the fourth-placed team."

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