Platini Insists Ukraine Is Ready For Euro 2012 Championship

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- UEFA president Michel Platini insists Ukraine will be allowed to co-host the 2012 European Championship despite preparation setbacks, but that the number of host cities are still undecided.

UEFA president Michel Platini.

UEFA earlier threatened to strip Ukraine of its co-hosting rights with Poland after difficulties building stadiums, hotels and transport infrastructure. However, the UEFA chief said Wednesday the competition will be played in the former Soviet republic as scheduled.

"We will go (to Ukraine)," Platini told The Associated Press in an interview on Wednesday. "The question this moment is how many cities we will have in Ukraine and where we will have the final."

Kyiv is the only city guaranteed so far, and it remains uncertain if the final will take place in the capital as originally planned. UEFA will announce the final list when executive members meet Dec. 9-11 in Portugal's Madeira islands.

"We have four Polish cities and one Ukrainian city," Platini said. "We will have to make a decision in December on how many cities we will have in Ukraine."

Ukraine was hit hard by the global financial crisis and the nation has relied on loans from the International Monetary Fund to build its infrastructure for the tournament. In addition, political decisions have been delayed by disputes between rival factions in the government.

"It was a big challenge to go into the east. UEFA took this challenge," Platini said. "We had surprises and it was not so easy, but it's working well and better."

Platini said earlier this month that Ukraine was making a lot of progress in its preparations and was on the right track to keep the competition.

Speaking a day after FIFA's executive committee meeting, Platini also defended the use of five officials on an experimental basis in the Europa league and said that with time the system will improve. He said he was happy with the system's debut on Sept. 17, but that the two additional assistants behind the goals will have to "participate more."

"It will be better, you have more justice in this system," Platini said. "You have four more eyes, it's easier."

Platini proposed the system because he said it's his "job as president of UEFA and as vice president of FIFA to help the referees see everything."

"We know that one referee can't see everything. With TV you see everything, but I'm against technology because (you need) the human factor. My job is to help the referees so they can make a good decision."

The UEFA chief said the additional assistants would have helped avoid the recent missed diving call that prompted UEFA to ban Arsenal striker Eduardo da Silva for two matches. The ban was later reversed on appeal.

On other issues, Platini also said an under-21 tournament in the Olympics would be "a very good compromise."

"We have so many problems," Platini said. "We have many games of qualifications and (the Olympics are) after the Euro, many clubs don't want to let their best players go. It's not in our calendar."

Platini said UEFA is not planning any sanctions against Serbia following the death of a 28-year French fan attacked in Belgrade by Serbian hooligans earlier this month.

"There will be no sanction because it was on the streets, in a bar," Platini said. "Outside the stadiums it's not (our) responsibility. It's the responsibility of society, it's a responsibility of the police."

Platini also said there is no immediate plan to grant the Europa League winner an automatic spot in the Champions League, and affirmed that the clubs "are very pleased" with the competition's new format.

The former star midfielder said he thinks his native France will be able to qualify for the World Cup despite its recent struggles, and that Brazil will remain a top contender for the title in next year's competition in South Africa.

"(Brazil) is so strong that you don't need Adriano, you don't need Ronaldo, you don't need Ronaldinho," he said. "(It's) always one of the best teams in the world.

Source: The Canadian Press