Platini slams Euro 2016 critics
UEFA president Michel Platini has hit back at critics who claim expanding the European Championships to 24 teams will reduce the quality of the competition.
Platini, speaking on the eve of the Euro 2016 qualifying draw in Nice, revealed that England and Germany had opposed the decision to expand the tournament but said the two countries had to abide by a democratic decision.
Germany's manager Joachim Low is among the critics, saying on the German FA's website: "As a coach, I think increasing the number of teams in a European Championship is questionable, and the same goes for the new qualifying format. It reduces the sporting value of not only individual matches but the entire tournament."
Euro 2016 in France will be the first European Championships with 24 rather than 16 finalists, following a UEFA Congress vote in 2009 on a proposal put forward by the Scottish FA and FA of Ireland.
Platini told a news conference: "If they don't like it they shouldn't play in that case!
"It was a decision that was taken by the vast majority. Two or three such as England and Germany were not in favour but 50 supported the proposal. Even if England and Germany are not happy with it, that's democracy."
Platini insists the quality of both the qualifying tournament and the finals will be maintained.
He added: "It is obvious you can have 24 very good teams and when I looked at the dry run draw this morning it is clear there is going to be a lot of pressure to qualify and that it is going to be just as difficult.
"The five or six biggest teams should have little problem but from the 15th to the 40th teams they will be fighting very, very hard."
UEFA's draw on Sunday will also see its 'week of football' idea unveiled, with qualifiers taking place every day from the Thursday to Tuesday of double-header international weeks.
Each country would have a two-day gap between matches, with eight to 10 qualifiers taking place each night. UEFA will also organise the fixtures to try to ensure that no more than two teams from the six top TV markets - England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Holland - are in action on the same day.
Platini said: "This was a political decision to try to promote the football of national teams. Clubs play every day of the week but as a result national team football has been pushed out of the limelight.
"We would like to see it take that limelight again."
UEFA's criteria for the fixtures include teams not playing more than two home or away matches in a row, having a fair distribution of matches at weekends, and minimising travel times for the second match in double-headers.
Games from countries in the same region will also be played on different days where possible.
Platini was also asked about the prospect of Scotland qualifying for a major competition for the first time since 1998, having put forward the expansion proposal.
He replied: "I admire British fans generally - they have a way of supporting their teams which is very special and wonderful to see but I am the president of 54 member associations so I can't say I prefer one team over another.
"You would have a great atmosphere but you will need to earn the right to participate first."
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