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Bids for Euro 2020 due today; tournament to be held all across Europe

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National federations from across UEFA’s 54 full-member countries had until Thursday to confirm their individual candidate cities to host matches in Euro 2020. Europe’s governing body will select 13 cities to host the tournament all across the continent in a departure from the traditional single-nation hosting system.

The UEFA Executive Committee is set to announce candidate cities on Sept. 20, and those cities have until April 25, 2014, to submit dossiers on their hosting capabilities. UEFA confirmed the tournament format and requirements for host stadiums in January.

Some highlights: Only one venue per country, each of which will host three group matches as a round of 16 or quarterfinal game; the semifinals and final will be played in the same stadium; none of the host nations will qualify for the tournament automatically; every qualified host is guaranteed two home games in the group phase; and the teams are free to set up base camp anywhere they like, with no obligation to stay in a country in which they play.

(MORE: Big Euro! Confederation championship to span continent in 2020)

To this point, 33 nations have either confirmed their bids or expressed interests. Such jewels of European soccer as the Allianz Arena in Munich, Amsterdam ArenA in the Netherlands, Old Trafford and Wembley Stadium in England and the San Siro and Stadio Olimpico in Italy have come up in discussions.

2018 FIFA World Cup host Russia has FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s support, and it declared Thursday that it would propose a to-be-constructed 69,000-seat stadium in St. Petersburg, which is set to host a semifinal at the World Cup. Blatter said the country will have all the necessary infrastructure, so hosting the World Cup should only help in its bid.

The semifinal and final venue may already be set, with UEFA president Michel Platini reportedly promising the last three games of the tournament to Turkey. In recent days, Istanbul lost to Tokyo in its bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. The German and English federations seem ready to drop their final bids to allow Platini to keep his word.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia