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Football's myriad emotions will be on display at UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine over the next three weeks – with UEFA President Michel Platini joining millions of football fans across the globe in looking forward to a memorable tournament.
As a player, Mr Platini experienced the supreme high of brandishing the Henry Delaunay trophy on home soil as French captain – and with a record haul of nine goals – in 1984. Now, at the helm of European football's governing body, he shares the passion of football enthusiasts to see a fine competition.
The EURO final round will not just be about spectacle and goals, however, as Mr Platini told UEFA.com on the eve of the big kick-off. "Football is not simply just about attack, there are also defenders in the game and even goalkeepers," he reflected. "Football is not only a team which attacks, it's also a team which defends, a team that plays well strategically: football is also about nice play by a defender, just as there is nice play by an attacker. But football is especially about emotions. Emotions that the players give to people – attackers or defenders – are part of football as a whole."
UEFA EURO 2012 will also be a celebration of national-team football, national identies and national football styles. UEFA considers the national-team game as a crucial component of the European football landscape.
"National teams, I think, are more popular than club football teams because they involve a whole nation," said Mr Platini. "Certain supporters may follow a club, but an entire nation unites around its national team. EURO is a very difficult competition, I think the most difficult, because the teams are really solid. It's so difficult that we have had some surprises, since the beginning of the EURO history, Denmark in 1992 – I remember that because I was a national coach back then – and Greece in 2004 in Portugal."
Poland and Ukraine were awarded the 2012 final round by the UEFA Executive Committee in Cardiff in April 2007 –the first time that the tournament had been awarded to hosts in eastern Europe. "[The decision] opened the doors to the east, but it created a lot of issues for us," the UEFA President admitted. "A great challenge – but a successful challenge for Poland and Ukraine, and for the people who are proud to host these Euros and who want to show off a wonderful atmosphere."
UEFA EURO 2012, and the vast preparatory work that has taken place to stage it, is set to leave a major legacy in both countries when the final whistle has sounded on the tournament.
"Especially in Ukraine, there will be a huge legacy," said Mr Platini. "When you take a look at the infrastructure – communications, airport terminals – and what they've done, I think that Ukraine has gained 30 years as far as the modernism of its infrastructures is concerned. This is a very important legacy that EURO will leave. In Poland, the EURO will especially leave nice stadiums, because they already had the infrastructures even if they have had to improve a few things, but the political concept is different there."
UEFA EURO 2012 is here and that means three weeks of football's vast palette of feelings – highs, lows, delights and despairs. "I hope we'll get some emotions," Mr Platini reflected, safe in the knowledge that he will certainly not be disappointed. And what can the fans in the stadiums and following the tournament elsewhere expect? "I'm sure they'll enjoy it, I have the impression they will. I think we'll see a very good EURO."
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