(WFI) Co-hosts Ukraine and Poland are drawn into the easiest two groups for Euro 2012.
In the span of just 13 minutes on Friday, former internationals Marco van Basten of the Netherlands and Zinedine Zidane of France sorted the 16 teams into four groups of four for next summer’s group stage.
UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino is flanked by former internationals Marco van Basten of the Netherlands and Zinedine Zidane of France onstage during Friday’s draw. (Getty Images)
Poland will begin Group A play June 8 at home in Warsaw against 2004 champs Greece before facing Russia and Czech Republic.
Group B is the “Group of Death” with Germany, Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark ranked second, third, seventh and 11th in the world.
Defending champs Spain headline what could prove to be the most predictable foursome alongside Croatia, Ireland and 2006 World Cup winners Italy. Crotia and Ireland are expected to be sent packing from Group C.
Group D is considered the toss-up with Ukraine kicking off June 11 in Kiev against Sweden before meeting 2016 host France and then England.
The winners and runners-up of each group will advance to knockout rounds beginning June 21 and wrapping up July 1 with the final match in Kiev, also the host of Friday’s draw.
In attendance at the National Palace of Arts were managers for the 16 participating teams, players past and present as well as UEFA president Michel Platini.
In an interview with CNN ahead of the draw, the Euro 1984 MVP revealed not only his excitement for next year’s edition but also his one-time skepticism of Ukraine prior to a change in government last year.
Euro 2012’s so-called “Group of Death” (Getty Images)
“I hope it will be a success,” Platini told the U.S. news channel.
“It’s been a complicated adventure, but at the end a nice adventure. Ukraine and Poland have done a lot of work and I am sure it will be a very nice competition.”
Asked specifically whether he had ever considered stripping either country of its hosting rights during the sometimes rocky road to 2012, he answered “no” for Poland but “yes” for Ukraine.
“We didn’t feel the strong support of the government because there were some political problems and we thought perhaps to change,” Platini told CNN.
“But it was my job to come back and say ‘Are you ready to organize this competition?’
At the end they gave us a guarantee, the government changed, and the new president and his team they made a big effort to build stadiums, roads and airports.”
According to the UEFA president, his decision to stick with the original co-hosts is proving the right one.
“Now the success is very nice,” he said.
“It will not be 100% very nice but it will be 95 or 96%. I’m very confident because the stadiums will be built, the games will be good and I’m sure the fans will be happy to feel a beautiful atmosphere in Poland and Ukraine.”
Platini Restates Case for Winter World Cup
Also Friday, Platini restated his call for the Qatar 2022 World Cup to be played in the winter months to avoid
the searing desert summer heat in the Gulf state.
UEFA president Michel Platini hoists the Euro trophy onstage during Friday’s draw. (Getty Images)
This time around, he also insisted he’s willing to rearrange the European football calendar in order to accommodate the change.
“Of course,” the UEFA president told Al Jazeera when asked about moving top club competitions such as the Champions League and Europa League.
“How can people go to Qatar in 50 degrees in June? If people can’t come to enjoy it, it’s not good.”
Despite Platini’s increasingly frequent suggestions otherwise, Qatar 2022 organizers are so far sticking to their bid book proposal to stage the tournament in air-conditioned stadia in June and July, the traditional window for a World Cup. Summer temperatures in the Gulf nation can reach 50 degrees Celsius in those months.
Platini, who appears likely to succeed FIFA president Sepp Blatter in 2015 and could very well still be in charge come 2022, also revealed to Al Jazeera that he cast his vote for the Gulf state.
“I think it’s nice to go in another part of the world, with people who never received the World Cup,” he told the Qatari news agency.
“I think it was a good decision, but now I think we have to adapt when is the best moment and where is the best moment to play this World Cup in Qatar.”
By INSIDER’s Matthew Grayson
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