Football: French back in Fifa Cup

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THE WORLD champions, France, have agreed to take part in the mid- 1999 Fifa Confederations Cup in Mexico on the condition that the dates are changed again, said Claude Simonet, the president of the French football federation (FFF) yesterday.

"We are unanimous in our agreement to play the tournament but the dates are not right," Simonet said after a meeting of the federal council, which was also attended by the league chief, Noel Le Graet.

Earlier this week Le Graet complained that the new 28 July to 8 August dates clashed with next season's kick-off. The FFF, who pulled out of the January-scheduled tournament, said it will keep its word to the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, and France will participate in the tournament.

Simonet said he plans to discuss the dates with Blatter in Geneva next week. "July 28 is not such a problem but August 8 is far too late. The dates have to be brought forward or the tournament has to be shortened," Simonet said.

France pulled out of the original 8-20 January tournament because only half their squad would have been released from their European club commitments.

The new dates fall in the late off-season, but still occur after the start of the French season, and some other European leagues, which had been brought forward to accommodate an expanded Champions' League.

The eight-nation event officially brings together the champions of Fifa's confederations and the holders, Brazil. But France, as world champions, were invited to represent Europe.