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The long road to Kiev

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Mihir Bose | 14:46 UK time, Monday, 7 July 2008

Uefa is happy with the progress being made in Poland to get the country ready for Euro 2012 but are very concerned about Ukraine.

That is the message coming from the headquarters of European football following the visit of an inspection delegation led by Uefa president Michel Platini and including executive members Geoff Thompson, former FA chairman, to these two countries.

William Galliard, Uefa's director of communications, told me: "We are very pleased to see the effort being made in Poland. Poland has got a good management team together and they are preparing six stadiums. Poland should be fine. The prime minister (Donald Tusk) told us Poland is determined to succeed.

"In the Ukraine, things are fuzzier. We got a lot of promises but we shall have to see concrete progress on stadiums".

Privately, Uefa sources tell me that they are very concerned about the state of play in Ukraine and are finding it difficult to match promises with reality.

During the visit Uefa officials met with the President of Ukraine, Vicktor Yushchenko, who told them that he would be prepared to spend five million Euros in building 4,500 kilometres of motorways.

But that is the entire length of the French motorway, which took more than 50 years to complete. For Ukraine to promise to undertake such a gigantic construction exercise in four years seems physically impossible.

Despite Uefa's unhappiness with the Ukraine, and fears that unrealistic promises are being made, it does not mean that come September, when the executive is due to meet, a decision will be made to take the championships away from Ukraine.

One Uefa source said: "We cannot just do that. We have to wait and see how they get on."

However, following the visit the Polish media is already speculating that if the Ukraine cannot get its act together then the Poles would be prepared to take the burden of hosting the championships on their own.

This is in marked contrast to when the two countries won the bid, defeating Italy in the process.

Then it was Ukraine that seemed more enthusiastic with Poland a shade more reluctant.

Ukraine has made progress on two stadiums: in Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk but they were the result of private initiatives.

Shaktar Stadium, Donetsk, as of April 2008

Even here the major problem of infrastructure such as road and rail links need to be solved.

One solution could be for Poland to host much of the Championship, with the Ukraine getting a couple of matches in stadiums that are ready.

One exception to this will be Kiev, where there are major problems with the stadium.

Any decision to take the Championship away from Ukraine, or downgrade the country by not playing in its capital city, will be a major one, involving delicate political balancing acts within the Uefa executive.

So while hosting Euro 2012 will continue to be a headache for Platini and his executive, the end result, probably not likely until next year, may be more of a compromise rather than showing Ukraine a red card.


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