UEFA president Michel Platini hailed the start of the footballing phase of UEFA EURO 2012 when he met the press at the Palace of Science and Culture in Warsaw ahead of the qualifying draw on 7 February.
Mr Platini, sitting alongside UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino and UEFA director Martin Kallen, emphasised that preparations for the tournament were progressing well and that he was looking forward to hosting this first official UEFA EURO 2012 event in Poland. "We are very happy to be in Warsaw," he said. "We were in Ukraine for the launch of the [UEFA EURO 2012] logo so it is the first official event in Poland. This draw is widely anticipated by all the European teams and with qualifying we now begin the football phase [of the competition].
"It's a historic occasion," Mr Platini added. "It's the first time Ukraine and Poland will organise such a large international competition in the biggest sport in the world, so we decided on the slogan 'Creating history together'. I am too modest to say that Poland and Ukraine will write the history of their respective countries in world politics. But at least they will write history in the world of football. We are certain to have a great EURO in Poland and Ukraine."
Mr Platini said one outstanding issue remained – the decision on where the quarter-finals will be held – but was confident this would soon be resolved. "We just have some small points to clear up such as where the quarter-finals will take place," he said. "We are working well. There has been an enormous amount of effort made by the Polish and Ukraine governments and we have worked well together. We don't have any big problems, quite the opposite – everything is going well."
Martin Kallen concurred: "The four cities in Ukraine and Poland are clear and work is going according to plan." Gianni Infantino, meanwhile, outlined the draw procedure and spoke of his pleasure that "four legends" – Zbigniew Boniek and Andrzej Szarmach from Poland, and Ukraine's Oleg Blokhin and Andriy Shevchenko – would be helping him conduct the ceremony from 12.00CET on Sunday at the Palace of Science and Culture.
Mr Platini also reiterated the UEFA Executive Committee decision that Russia and Georgia, and Armenia and Azerbaijan, could not be drawn against each other. This would avoid the situation that occurred in UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying where Armenia and Azerbaijan were drawn in the same group and the two games between the sides had to be cancelled for non-footballing reasons. "Rather than create problems in the group, we avoid political issues straight away," Mr Platini said. "We don't want to mix sports with politics so by separating these countries we can avoid these political issues."
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