UEFA President Michel Platini has described the task of holding UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine as a challenge that is being won.
Mr Platini was speaking in Venice after the last UEFA Executive Committee meeting of the year, during which the committee heard the latest report on preparations for next summer's final round between 8 June and 1 July 2012. Last week's final-round draw in Kyiv signalled the latest stage in the countdown to the tournament.
"It is a formidable challenge, not only for Poland and Ukraine, but also for UEFA, and we are in the process of winning this challenge," said Mr Platini. "It has not been easy, but the new government [in Ukraine] has worked extremely hard in the last few years to put an interesting system in place with respect to EURO. Today, the stadiums are finished and they are fine.
"Today, I have no worries that this EURO will be a wonderful one, not only for football, but also in terms of the atmosphere and the welcome given by the people in Poland and Ukraine," he added.
"The advantage for these two countries," the UEFA President continued, "is that they are making a leap ahead in quality of 30 years into the future, because they are changing communications, roads, motorways, airport terminals. They have invested greatly. The EURO will last only three weeks – but all of this will remain for decades afterwards. It's a wonderful thing for the two countries. And if the players play well, it will also be wonderful for football."
Mr Platini has also been an interested observer of events in the UEFA Champions League this week, and emphasised that, whatever the quality and strengths of teams, matches are decided on the field of play.
"You must always respect what happens in football on the pitch," he said. "There have been surprises and I will always respect the clubs which qualify. A club from Cyprus [APOEL FC] and a club from Switzerland [FC Basel 1893] have qualified. Therefore there are newcomers among the 16 best European clubs."
Meanwhile, women's football was at the centre of the Executive Committee's thoughts, with a green light given to the expansion of the UEFA European Women's Championship final round from 12 to 16 teams from 2017, and an increase in the number of UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final round participants from four to eight.
"This is a boost for women's football," said UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, reflecting the additional impetus being lent to the women's game by UEFA through its development activities alongside its member national associations and their clubs.
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