France on Friday rejected as "unfounded" remarks by Sepp Blatter that French pressure contributed to Qatar being awarded the 2022 World Cup, as the FIFA president admitted that giving the Gulf state a summer tournament was a "mistake".
Blatter told Swiss television RTS on Thursday that pressure from Paris -- as well as Germany -- had helped Qatar become hosts of the mega-event watched by millions around the world.
But French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal hit back saying: "The allegations by the president of FIFA on alleged pressure by France at the time of the award of the 2022 World Cup are unfounded.
"The designation of the country chosen to host the World Cup is for FIFA itself, and for the whole of its executive committee to choose through a vote."
Blatter told RTS that Qatar had not "bought" the World Cup but did have powerful backers, admitting to "political pressures" coming notably from France and Germany, both of whom, he said, had economic interests in the Gulf region.
"We know perfectly well that big French companies and big German companies have interests in Qatar. But they are not only involved in the World Cup."
Contacted Friday by AFP, a German government spokesman declined to comment, but he referred to remarks made by Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert in November 2013.
Seibert told reporters then: "I can only very clearly say here for the chancellor that at no time has there been a recommendation to a German FIFA executive member to cast a ballot for the choice of Qatar as host."
FIFA took the decision to award Qatar the World Cup in December 2010, handing organisation of the world's biggest sporting event by viewership to the tiny gas-rich emirate.
Since then Qatar has been dogged by controversies over the validity of the vote, the treatment of foreign workers employed on World Cup infrastructure projects, as well as when in 2022 the tournament should be played.
- 'Everyone makes mistakes' -
When asked if it was a mistake to award the Middle East country the World Cup because of its high temperatures during the summer months, Blatter replied in Thursday's interview: "Yes, of course."
"You know, everyone makes mistakes in life," he added.
The average temperature tops 40°C in June and July (104 degrees Fahrenheit), when World Cup finals usually take place.
"The Qatar technical report ruled that it was too hot in the summer, but the (FIFA's) executive committee, with a large majority, decided to play in Qatar," said Blatter.
In these circumstances, "it is more than likely" that the 2022 World Cup will be played in winter, said Blatter, who has repeatedly expressed his desire to move the tournament to a more suitable date.
Temperatures in the winter in Qatar are around 25°C (77 degrees Fahrenheit).
"The best time to play is at the end of the year. You must remain realistic... we must play in winter at the end of the year," added Blatter.
Following his comments, FIFA issued a statement saying they were fully in line with previous remarks and affirmed that Qatar would remain hosts.
Blatter's comments are in line with the position taken by his number two, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, who said in January that the 2022 World Cup should be held ideally between November 15 and January 15.
A final decision will be made after next month's World Cup finals in Brazil.