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Platini denies Spain are 'boring' at Euro 2012
By GRAHAM DUNBAR
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) Boring Spain? Not according to UEFA President Michel Platini, who dismissed criticism aimed at the defending champion ahead of the European Championship final against Italy on Sunday.
Commentators have argued that Spain has created little excitement by denying opponents the ball and struggling to score at Euro 2012. Ukrainian fans at Spain's quarterfinal and semifinal wins in Donetsk also were underwhelmed.
"I don't agree at all," Platini told reporters at a briefing to reflect on Euro 2012. "It's impressive how much they move the ball. It's a different style, but based on tactical intelligence and great technical ability."
Platini found much to praise at the tournament. His list featured the "fantastic" Italy forward Mario Balotelli, the loyal ranks of Ireland fans who won widespread acclaim, and co-host nations Poland and Ukraine, who exceeded expectations of their ability to organize the 24-day tournament.
It was an upbeat Platini facing the media, compared to his sullen display at an eve-of-event briefing that was dominated by questions of expected racial problems in host cities and stadiums.
"I was very tense before the tournament and I came in very tired," said Platini. "Today I am more relaxed and a bit calmer."
The former France great, who captained and coached his national team, said Spain had already proved its quality by winning Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.
"They are creating a lot of chances, and every coach needs to play according to the strength of their players," Platini said.
Still, the former Juventus player said Italy has "surprised me in a positive way," adding more attacking tactics to its traditional defensive strength.
The final on Sunday in the Olympic Stadium match in Kiev featured the two teams who "played the best technical football."
Asked about Balotelli's impact, including both goals in a 2-1 semifinals win over Germany, Platini praised him as "a brilliant player."
"The day he didn't play against Ireland was Italy's worst game, even though they still won," Platini said.
Platini will soon travel to Ireland, to present a UEFA award to its cheerful legions of singing fans who won a millions of admirers for their good-natured and loyal support of perhaps the weakest team at Euro 2012.
The Irish fans' singing of "The Fields of Athenry" - a folk song set during the 19th century Irish Famine - filled stadiums in Poznan and Gdansk with emotion as the team lost Croatia, Spain and Italy.
Platini spoke of "overwhelming" pride at how UEFA and the co-host nations worked to deliver "the best legacy ever" from a European Championship.
"I'm proud for Poland and Ukraine as they were much maligned, but they have shown themselves up to it," the UEFA president said through a translator.
Ukraine football president Hrihory Surkis said the former Soviet Union republic had "shown we are part of the European home."
Platini later defended France midfielder Samir Nasri who was criticized at home after twice clashing with media in Ukraine.
It was "absolutely ludicrous" for reports in France to suggest that Nasri could be suspended from the national team for two years, Platini said.
"If I got suspended every time I insulted a journalist, I wouldn't have had many caps," he added.
Platini held court for one hour directly after chairing a meeting of UEFA's executive committee.
UEFA promised European clubs a greater share of its billions in commercial income from the Euro and Champions League.
Around 580 clubs from across 53 member nations will now collect payments from a promised 100 million ($127 million) fund from Euro 2012 profits. A total of 60 million will be distributed among clubs who released players for the finals tournament, with 40 million shared among clubs whose players represented national teams in qualifying matches.
In other decisions Saturday, UEFA announced a 22 percent increase in Champions League revenue, to 1.34 billion ($1.7 billion) for each of the next three seasons. Europa League revenues rise 12 percent to 225 million ($285 million) annually for the 2012-15 cycle, including a 40 million subsidy each year from the Champions League.
UEFA also awarded the 2014 Super Cup to Cardiff City Stadium in Wales, and the 2015 match will be hosted at the Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia. The 2012 match between Champions League winner Chelsea and Europa League champion Atletico Madrid is the last being played in Monaco.
An under-19 tournament for Champions League teams will begin a two-year trial in 2013-14.
UEFA appointed Portuguese lawyer Jose Cunha Rodriguez to chair the judging chamber of its judicial body ensuring clubs abide by "Financial Fair Play" rules. Rodriguez will start work when he leaves the Court of Justice of the European Union in October.
Updated June 30, 2012