WARSAW (AFP) - Joint Euro 2012 hosts Poland and Ukraine on Sunday brushed aside concerns about their readiness for Europe's top football tournament, as the qualifying draw marked their first real-time test.
"It's three years since UEFA awarded the hosting of the 2012 European football championships to Poland and Ukraine," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said.
"These three years have been a period of hard work in both countries," Tusk told an audience of top officials from the continent's football governing body and its 53 national associations assembled for the draw.
"Euro 2012 infrastructure is being constructed, including stadia, airports, motorways and hotels," the ardent football fan and Sunday league player insisted.
In April 2007, UEFA raised eyebrows by choosing Poland and Ukraine over favorites Italy and joint bidders Hungary and Croatia to host the quadrennial, 16-team championships.
It will be the first time either has run a major tournament and marks UEFA's first big foray behind the former Iron Curtain.
"It's a real first for football," Platini told reporters on the eve of the draw at Warsaw's Palace of Culture and Science.
The 42-storey venue was a fitting symbol of bridging old Cold War divisions.
It sparks a love-hate reaction among locals because while it was a communist-era "gift" from Poland's Soviet overlord it became one of the main landmarks in the capital. It is now surrounded by cutting-edged skyscrapers built since the regime's fall in 1989 allowed the free market to flourish.
The hosts put on a gala display, showcasing the charms of their eight venue cities, from the beaches of Gdansk on Poland's Baltic coast to the riverside of Donetsk in southeast Ukraine.
Iconic players from both nations were on hand, including Ukraine's Oleg Blokhin, who was named European Footballer of the Year in 1975 when his homeland was still firmly part of the Soviet Union.
"For sure, we've been waiting for this moment for a long time," Blokhin said.
Platini said he was "absolutely certain that Poland and Ukraine will be a really great European championships".
"There are still two years to get things into shape," he underlined.
Despite the upbeat message, jitters remain.
Ukraine is a persistent concern, amid bitter political infighting and a spectacular economic slump.
"Between the financial crisis and the political problems in Ukraine, it's not been particularly simple," Platini acknowledged.
UEFA has in general been happier about the readiness of Poland.
A European Union member since 2004, it is the only nation in the 27-nation bloc to have bucked the global economic crisis. It has also enjoyed political stability since the liberal Tusk ousted a fractious conservative-led coalition in an October 2007 snap election.
But the duo remain under pressure to meet the major challenges they face in shaking up their infrastructure, notably Ukraine, which was part of the Soviet Union until 1991 and whose dreams of EU membership and access to the funding it brings are a long way off.
Currently, the 1,900-kilometre (1,180-mile) trip from Gdansk to Donetsk requires serious stamina.
A lucky driver can do it in 23 hours - not counting the wait at the border - mostly on single-lane roads.
It's worse by train: the trip takes 43 hours, at best.
"The project is the biggest since Ukraine became independent," Ivan Vasyunyk, the country's deputy premier, said in Warsaw.
"Ukraine is perfectly able to perfectly stage the tournament and will have all the infrastructure in place," he insisted.
"The government of Ukraine does realise what enormous work is required to stage the tournament," he added.
Poland's Sports Minister Adam Giersz said it was time for the debate to move on.
"We're no longer discussing if a stadium will be ready by 2012 or not," he said.
There have been concerns over the arena in the southwestern Polish city of Wroclaw, where the authorities in December voided the contract with a Polish-Greek consortium, citing construction delays, and chose a replacement German firm last month.
"We've had some issues but we've resolved them," Wroclaw's mayor Rafal Dutkiewicz said on Sunday. "I want to assure you that the stadium will be ready on time."
|FIFA World Cup Preview: Brazil v Netherlands|
|Suarez departs Liverpool with ´heavy heart´|
|Liverpool did everything to keep Suarez - Rodgers|
|Suarez to sign for Barca|
|Boyce: Referees not told to be lenient|
|Sanchez reveals Wenger admiration|
|Flick staying secretive on Messi plans|
|Determined Dyche aims to complete more deals|
|Matri joins Genoa on loan|
|Valderrama talks up James potential|
|Aguero: Argentina are World Cup underdogs|
|Everton in talks over Traore return|
|Lambert tipped to prise open defences|
|Thauvin hails Bielsa impact at Marseille|
|Zico: Time for Scolari to go|
|Klopp eager for defensive improvement|
|Arsenal to run the rule over Fathi|
|Chamakh signs news Palace deal|
|Neville set to learn United fate|
|Fiorentina swoop for Brillante|
|Navas set to join Bayern|
|Neymar rejects agent´s anti-Scolari Twitter tirade|
|Allegri undecided on Italy job|
|Fernando idolises City team-mate Toure|
|Arteta: FA Cup will inspire Arsenal´s Premier League tilt|
|Evergrande confirm Gilardino signing|
|Howedes calls for team effort to stop Messi|
|Kuyt: Van Gaal can succeed at United|
|Argentina fined for player no-show|
|Neymar: ´I could be in a wheelchair´|
|Mascherano: I tackled doubts to block Robben|
|Zaccheroni: I leave Japan in a good spot|
|Aguero: Argentina ready to give everything|
|UEFA Europa League Review: Gothenburg leave it late, Sillamae stun Honka|
|Klose lauds Ronaldo after scooping record|
|Iran refute Susic claims|
|Fernandez named Deportivo boss|
|Argentina have no chance, says Robben|
|Hierro to replace Zidane as Real first-team coach|
|Rhodes signs new Rovers deal|
|Arsenal complete Sanchez swoop|
|Inzaghi backs under-fire Balotelli|
|Defeat has overshadowed display - Vlaar|
|Maradona: Germany full of themselves|
|Barry hoping for England recall|
|Green extends QPR stay|
|Shanghai Shenhua 1 Guangzhou Evergrande 2: Rong leaves it late in dramatic win|
|Germany hope for Brazilian support|
|Torino striker Cerci in demand|
|FIFA critcised following Mascherano incident|
|Bernat happy at Bayern despite bad memories|
|Giggs backs Van Gaal to thrive at Old Trafford|
|Tadic can fill Lallana void - Koeman|
|New five-year deal for Nasri|
|Barcelona release injury-hit Cuenca|
|Suarez appeal rejected|
|La Decima a reflection of Di Stefano - Perez|
|Buoyant Mazzarri eager for Inter success|
|Mandzukic joins Atletico|
|Van Gaal criticises third-place play-off|
|Halilhodzic yet to decide future|
|Mandzukic eager for Simeone link-up|
|Davies hoping for Hull deal|
|Poyet hopeful over Altidore fitness|
|Diego close to ´dream´ Fenerbahce move|
|Inter loan out youngsters|
|Fired-up Cole can inspire Villa, claims Lambert|
|Hughes hailed for winning over Brit doubters|
|Hajrovic signs for Bremen|
|Hull can buck Europa League trend, says Meyler|
|Mertesacker talks up German chances|
|Swansea reveal Tottenham contact over Davies, Sigurdsson|
|Lloris pens five-year deal at Tottenham|
|Fernandinho: ´The pain is big´|
|MLS Preview: Portland aim for swift revenge against Seattle|
|Sabella: Germany have an advantage|
|Second Argentine journalist dies in Brazil|
|Aguero: Argentina defied critics|
|Impressive Mascherano thrilled with final´s berth|
|Zuniga offered protection by Colombia|
|Germany vowed not to ´humiliate´ Brazil|
|Hong resigns from South Korea post|
|Third-choice Vlaar ´wasn´t nervous´|
|Van Gaal: I wanted Krul in the shootout|
|Argentina: Key factors in reaching the final|
|Sabella revels in semi-final win|
|Proud Robben feels pain of World Cup exit|
|FIFA World Cup: Netherlands 0 Argentina 0 (after extra time, 2-4 on penalties)|
|Susic signs two-year extension with Bosnia-Herzegovina|
|Hummels in race to make World Cup final|
|Scolari still baffled by Brazil collapse|
|Spendlhofer and Benedetti leave Inter|
|Neymar ´recovering well´ from injury|
|Villarreal sign Jonathan dos Santos|
|Arteta happy at Arsenal, insists agent|
|Birsa makes Chievo loan switch|
|FIFA suspends Nigeria over political interference|
|Di Stefano funeral held in Madrid|
|Hangeland scathing of ´difficult´ Magath|
|Thiago Silva in fan plea|
|Isgrove earns fresh one-year deal at Southampton|
|Morata edges closer to Juve switch|
|Nugent pens two-year extension at Leicester|
|Gomez delight with ´perfect´ Germany|
|Costa Rica to discuss Pinto future|
|Arfield agrees Burnley extension|
|Allardyce targets four more signings|
|K.League Review: Jeonnam close gap on Pohang, Jeonbuk|
|Maradona: Thrashing damages Brazil´s image|
|Kasami makes Olympiacos move|
|Chelsea complete Pasalic signing|
|Helenius makes temporary Aalborg return|
|Higuain set for Napoli stay|
|Basta targets return to Europe with Lazio|
|Lewandowski willing to adapt for Bayern|
|New Hull deal for Jakupovic|
|Atletico agree Mandzukic deal, claims Sammer|
|Fulham seal Stafylidis loan|
|Alves pens new Valencia deal|
|Ochoa to take time over future|
|Brown could miss three months|
|Adams: Norwich will not overspend|
|Gundogan unsure when rehab can step up|
|Stoke chairman wants long Begovic stay|
|Brazilian media reacts to semi-final exit|
|Icardi vows to remain at Inter|
|Robben is player of the World Cup, says Kluivert|
|Klose focused on final after breaking record|
|Prandelli takes aim at Balotelli, Rossi|
|Schweinsteiger sorry for Brazil battering|
|Brazil scarred for life, says Fred|
|Sabella: Argentina ´have already won´|
|Muller stunned by rout|
|Low lauds ice-cool Germany|
|Tearful Luiz apologizes for semi-final loss|
|Scolari sorry for ´catastrophic´ Brazil hammering|
|Brazil join sport´s biggest chokers|
|Reality kills Brazilian dream on a surreal night|
|FIFA World Cup: Brazil 1 Germany 7|