UEFA officials simply cannot get out from beneath their choice to hold the showpiece tournament, the European Championship, on the continent’s Eastern side.
UEFA president Michel Platini sounds utterly exasperated. And he should be. As the Daily Mail’s Martin Samuel says, Platini would prefer to talk about soccer ahead of tomorrow’s tournament opener, but he’s stuck in a defensive crouch, addressing much less pleasant issues. Instead, he’s dealing with “the hot potato topics that kept coming: racism, match-fixing in Italy, Panorama, more racism, match-fixing in Turkey, racism, expensive hotels, racism, player walk-offs, racism.”
Political undertow has been endemic around the tournament, especially in Ukraine; some European governments are boycotting the event over treatment of the political opposition there.
For their part, the problem for UEFA leadership is that Platini seems tone deaf to some of the concerns, especially on the racism end.
Keep an eye on this one; Piara Powar, the executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), says he believe UEFA will make good on its promise to expel teams from the tournament if they cannot properly police their fans’ behavior.
ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.
WIGAN, England (AP) It was better than a hat trick.
A player for English soccer team Wigan had a night to remember when he scored his second goal before dashing off the field and to the local hospital, where his girlfriend was in labor.
[ MORE: Chelsea advances to UCL Round of 16 after win over Qarabag ]
A picture of Ryan Colclough holding his new-born baby, Harley, while still in his soccer uniform was shared on social media by Wigan chairman David Sharpe.
Colclough said his father, sitting in the stands on Tuesday for Wigan’s 3-0 win over Doncaster in the second division, “gave me the action that the waters had broken,” but he didn’t want to come off until the ball was out of play.
“My head was a little bit battered, but I went and scored, looked at the manager and he said we’ll bring you off now,” Colclough said Wednesday of his 58th-minute goal, which he celebrated by pretending to rock a baby. “I came off and was straight down the tunnel, grabbed my keys and my phone, and went to hospital.”
Colclough had visited the midwife that day, and was told the baby was unlikely to arrive for “another couple of days.”
LILLE, France (AP) French club Lille has provisionally suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa following a string of poor results in the top tier.
[ MORE: Basel stuns Man United late to keep UCL hopes alive ]
The northern side said in a statement that Bielsa has been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club.” Lille did not elaborate.
Bielsa joined Lille this season but has failed to make the club competitive again, with the team second to last after 13 matches.
In today’s Euro Pod Edition, the Robbies breakdown the latest Champions League action. Man United lose at Basel, Chelsea cruise at Qarabag, Spurs impress against Dortmund, Man City continue to win, Liverpool surrender a 3-goal lead against Sevilla. Plus, the guys weigh in on the Oumar Niasse ban for diving and the Tony Pulis sacking.
Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.
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While several teams have already booked their place in the knockout phase, the Europa League reaches its penultimate round on Thursday with many big matches in hand.
[ MORE: Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training ]
Of the two Premier League sides in the competition, only one will advance to the Round of 32, as Arsenal have all but assured themselves of the top spot in Group H. The Gunners can do so tomorrow with a win over Koln or a Red Star Belgrade defeat.
The other end of the spectrum features Everton, who has already been eliminated from reaching the next round after acquiring just one point in its first four matches.
European giants AC Milan can lock up a spot in the knockout phase on Thursday despite the club’s ongoing struggles in Serie A, while fellow Italian side Atalanta can move a step closer to the Round of 32 in Group E along with Lyon.
Here’s the full rundown of Thursday’s UEL matches.
Astana vs. Villareal — 11 a.m. ET
Konyaspor vs. Marseille — 1 p.m. ET
Rosenborg vs. Real Sociedad — 1 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. Vitesse — 1 p.m. ET
Viktoria Plzen vs. Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m. ET
Lokomotiv vs. Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit vs. Vardar — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Vitoria — 1 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao vs. Hertha Berlin — 1 p.m. ET
BATE vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Zorya — 1 p.m. ET
Koln vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET
Nice vs. Zulte Waregem — 1 p.m. ET
Lugano vs. Beer-Sheva — 1 p.m. ET
Ludogorets vs. Istanbul — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga vs. Hoffenheim — 3:05 p.m. ET
AEK vs. Rijeka — 3:05 p.m. ET
AC Milan vs. Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m. ET
Lyon vs. Apollon — 3:05 p.m. ET
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Slavia Praha — 3:05 p.m. ET
Sheriff vs. Zlin — 3:05 p.m. ET
Partizan vs. Young Boys — 3:05 p.m. ET
Skenderbeu vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:05 p.m. ET
Everton vs. Atalanta — 3:05 p.m. ET