Posted June 18, 2012 on AP on Fox
UEFA President Michel Platini is unhappy that some Croatia fans have tarnished a European Championship he described as ''99 percent great.'' Platini told reporters Monday he is delighted with co-hosts Poland and Ukraine, who ''have already won the Euro'' by defying doubters to organize a successful tournament. However, he added: ''I am not happy with the Croatian people,'' who are implicated in racially abusing an opposing black player and delaying matches in Poland. ''Except for the Croatians, it was clean. I think it is a good victory,'' Platini said a day before the 16-team group stage ends amid widespread praise for the high quality of matches and refereeing. On Tuesday, UEFA will prosecute charges against Croatia's football association after fans made monkey noises at Italy's Mario Balotelli. Croatian fans have also caused delays at both their team's matches by throwing flares onto the pitch, and one fan invaded the pitch at a game against Ireland. In the tournament's highest profile incident, Platini said only ''10 stupid people'' were responsible for fighting on the streets of Warsaw when Poland played Russia. As for the football, Platini said the Netherlands' early exit on Sunday showed that Euro 2012 is ''more difficult than the World Cup.'' He also predicted a final between Spain and Germany on July 1 in Kiev. Platini showed his frustration with Croatia, having previously urged its political and football leaders to deal with a hooligan problem. In central Poznan last week, Croatians burned a European Union flag and paraded posters of a convicted war criminal before their team faced Italy. UEFA has no jurisdiction over incidents that occur away from stadiums. ''I went one year ago in Croatia to speak with the president and the prime minister,'' Platini said. In February 2011, Platini warned President Ivo Josipovic that UEFA could suspend national and club teams from European competitions. Croatia should prosecute offenders swiftly, ban them from traveling abroad to matches and improve international police cooperation, Platini suggested at the time. Platini agreed Monday that similar measures taken in England a decade ago had helped control violence at matches abroad. Still, Platini said he was ''delighted'' overall with the atmosphere at Euro 2012. ''All the emotions in the stadium have been 99 percent great,'' Platini said. ''The people who come to the stadiums, they were nice, except some Croatians. ''We can do better, but better is perfection. It is very, very difficult to do better in this tournament than what we have done.'' Platini heaped praise on the co-host nations, after ''five long, long years'' of often troubled preparations. ''Poland has already won the Euro. Ukraine has already won the Euro,'' he said, though the Poles were eliminated Saturday and Ukraine must beat England on Tuesday to reach the quarterfinals. ''The challenge was very tough. At the end they did it well,'' Platini said. The UEFA president insisted that both countries were grateful for the effort and money invested in Euro 2012. Billions of taxpayers' money was spent on stadiums, airports, roads, hotels and communications technology to support the three-week event. ''The people who love football thank us. The people who don't love football thank us for the legacies we are leaving for the future,'' he said. Platini was attending the Italy-Ireland match in Poznan on Monday, to complete his tour of all eight Euro 2012 stadiums - six built or extensively renovated for the tournament. After seeing 14 teams in action, the former France great quipped that he was saving the other two - Germany and England - for the quarterfinals. ''I was very disappointed about the Netherlands team. I was surprised by the Italy team,'' said Platini. Italy has not conformed to its defense-first reputation in Poland, and uncharacteristically let leads slip in two 1-1 draws. ''That is religion in Italy,'' said Platini, who played for Juventus in his prime. ''After the Pope, there is the 1-0 - and it is not possible to score. (Coach Cesare) Prandelli, he makes them play and that is nice.'' Platini praised the refereeing at Euro 2012 as ''very good.'' UEFA has promoted the system of five officials in use here as an alternative to high-tech aids such as goal line technology, which Platini fears could lead to decisions by video replay. Euro 2012 referees are helped by two linesmen, plus additional assistants positioned beside each goal to help judge penalty area decisions and deter shirt-pulling and diving. ''That is why they are better. I want that (referees) see everything and don't take a decision without knowing,'' Platini said. With Euro 2012 outscoring the 2010 World Cup by an extra half-goal per match on average, one theory holds that extra referees have contributed to increased numbers of goals scored from headers and set piece moves. ''For myself, I'm very, very, very, very happy,'' Platini said.
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