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."
|Cancelo joins Inter on loan from Valencia|
|Rojo returns to Manchester United training after four-month lay-off|
|Barcelona take legal action against Neymar for alleged breach of contract|
|Weigl back in Dortmund training as recovery from broken ankle continues|
|Fancy Bears group names players granted TUEs for World Cup 2010|
|Thiago and Martinez return to Bayern Munich training|
|Rooney´s England career is over - Hurst|
|Icardi: Argentina have the best attack in the world|
|Monaco ultras fire warning to Mbappe amid talk of PSG move|
|Mane more important to Liverpool than Barcelona target Coutinho, claims Carragher|
|Arsenal midfielder Wilshere challenges reporter after red card|
|Marseille president admits interest in Moussa Dembele|
|Kalinic capture continues AC Milan overhaul|
|Hoffenheim play better football than Liverpool – Demirbay|
|Rooney trolls ´familiar faces´ after scoring landmark goal against Manchester City|
|Messi is unsure about Barcelona future, claims Benedito|
|Giggs expects Manchester United to be hard to stop under Mourinho|
|Courtois takes swipe at Tottenham fans after Chelsea win at Wembley|
|Referee abandons match in China to catch flight|
|Fassone: No more signings planned for Milan|
|Messi´s buyout clause? Someone could pay it – Guardiola|
|Koeman lauds ´clever´ Rooney after 200th Premier League goal|
|Burnley boss Dyche tells Wood to be like Neymar|
|Mbappe to PSG will ruin Ligue 1, warns Aulas|
|Rooney revels in 200th Premier League goal as Everton hold City|
|West Brom´s Robson-Kanu loses red card appeal|
|Costa would fit in at Marseille – Eyraud|
|One of the proudest days of my life - Pep Guardiola delighted with City effort in Everton draw|
|Wayne Rooney to discuss England return with Gareth Southgate|
|Koeman disappointed despite ´good result´ at City|
|How Rooney reached 200 Premier League goals - the numbers behind the milestone|
|Manchester City 1 Everton 1: Sterling strike denies visitors after Rooney milestone|
|Wayne Rooney scores 200th Premier League goal|
|Iturbe joins Tijuana on loan|
|Vardy fitness boost for Leicester ahead of Blades cup tie|
|Al Ain 0 Al Hilal 0: All square after scrappy quarter-final first leg|
|Clement reminds Abraham he´s ´not here on work experience´|
|City to pay tribute to victims of Manchester and Catalonia attacks|
|De Ligt signs four-year Ajax extension|
|Kondogbia departs Inter for Valencia loan|
|Spurs star Kane unconcerned by continued August hoodoo|
|Cutrone to feature in Montella´s immediate Milan plans|
|Guardiola one of the best - Ederson had no doubts over Manchester City move|
|They´re just rumours - Nice´s Fournier plays down talk of Barca move for Seri|
|Chelsea´s ´great character´ key to Wembley win - David Luiz|
|Martial backs Pogba for Ballon d´Or within five years|
|So stupid - Muller rues knee injury after ´helicopter´ crash|
|Feyenoord sign winger Larsson from Heerenveen|
|Ritchie and Phillips return to Scotland squad for qualifiers|
|Sakho asking price ´much too expensive´ for Palace boss De Boer|
|Costa calls Conte ´disrespectful´ over ´moment of madness´ text message|
|Ederson backs Neymar´s Ballon d´Or ambition|
|Burnley land Chris Wood in club-record transfer|
|Man City outcast Nasri joins Eto´o at Antalyaspor|
|Steve McClaren heads to Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv|
|Early hours third-round draw brings more ridicule for EFL Cup|
|Arsenal send Jenkinson and Bramall to Birmingham|
|Roberto eyes Barca stay after revelling in midfield role|
|Lewandowski irked by busy Bayern pre-season|
|Coutinho should decide his future - Manchester City´s Ederson supports Barca target|
|Ibrahimovic fighting fit for possible Manchester United return|
|Rummenigge defends Barcelona´s Dembele bid|
|Fernandinho sounds Rooney warning for Manchester City|
|Brighton sign Izquierdo in club-record deal|
|MLS Review: NYC, Sounders score stoppage-time winners|
|They shouldn´t be there! – Neymar hits out at Barca board|
|Ramos highlights animosity towards Madrid after red card|
|Mourinho tells Rashford to embrace boo boys|
|Zidane wants no more changes to Madrid squad|
|Pastore rules out leaving PSG in swap for Mbappe|
|Messi will sign Barcelona contract – Fernandez|
|Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos equals LaLiga record for red cards|
|Spalletti eyes improvement despite convincing Inter win|
|Montella pleased with Milan´s winning start|
|I can improve - Neymar wants more despite stunning Parc des Princes bow for PSG|
|Valverde praises Barca stand-ins after opening win|
|Deportivo La Coruna 0 Real Madrid 3: Bale nets as champions make confident start|
|Celtic star Tierney destined for Premier League, says Adam|
|Deulofeu dedicates Barca win to victims of Las Ramblas attack|
|Guardiola not worried over City´s Everton struggles|
|Paris Saint-Germain 6 Toulouse 2: Neymar shines on Parc des Princes debut as Verratti sees red|
|Crotone 0 AC Milan 3: Cutrone and Suso star in sizzling start|
|Inter 3 Fiorentina 0: Icardi double condemns Pioli to miserable return|
|Barcelona 2 Real Betis 0: Deulofeu on song as Valverde makes winning start|
|David Luiz and Bakayoko branded ´amazing´ by Conte as Chelsea beat Tottenham|
|No Wembley worries for Pochettino despite Spurs setback|
|Desire of champions still in Chelsea´s hearts, says Conte|
|Manchester City´s Mendy hails Batshuayi own goal as #bulletheader|
|Chelsea match-winner Alonso hails champion spirit after stunning Spurs|
|Bayern drawn against RB Leipzig in DFB-Pokal|
|Big-spending Everton ´expecting to win and win´ - Pickford|
|Welcome to AC Milan - Kalinic´s arrival confirmed|
|Tottenham 1 Chelsea 2: Awesome Alonso ensures more Wembley woe for Spurs|
|West Brom appeal against Robson-Kanu red card|
|Monchi focused on signings not sales at Roma amid Cuadrado links|
|Wagner lauds ´totally important´ Huddersfield wins|
|Koeman believes Everton can exploit Manchester City defence|
|Huddersfield determined to make an impact, says Ince|
|Andone comfortable at Deportivo but tempted by Burnley move|
|Fekir: Halfway line wonder goal was about instinct|
|Salihamidzic impressed by Bayern´s new boys|
|Shakespeare expecting Vardy to be fine after knock|
|Huddersfield Town 1 Newcastle United 0: Fierce Mooy strike sees flying start continue|
|Gullit calls on Conte to apologise to Chelsea exile Costa|
|´Incomprehensible´ Keita is like two players - Heidel|
|Kompany ready for next instalment of Rooney rivalry|
|Watzke withering over Barca´s role in Dembele soap opera|
|Hamburg´s Muller suffers torn ACL celebrating winning goal|
|Iniesta casts doubt on Barca future|
|Morata wants to ´make an explosion´ with Chelsea|
|I remember one day he started shooting the journalists - Pochettino recalls Maradona mayhem|
|Conte signals intention to remain at Chelsea for ´many years´|
|MLS Review: Toronto pull clear, Montreal continue run|
|Bosz lauds ´special´ Gotze after star´s return|
|Wenger: I´m not thinking about signing players|