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CARDIFF, Wales -- Poland and Ukraine have been chosen to stage the 2012 European Championships, UEFA president Michel Platini announced in Cardiff on Wednesday.
The governing body decided to reject the claims of strong favorites, world champions Italy, who have been rocked by last year's match-fixing scandal and crowd violence this season, and another joint bid by Croatia and Hungary.
The Poland and Ukraine bid received eight votes to Italy's four. Croatia and Hungary received none.
"Finally, the big event is going to the countries which have had no opportunities to improve football," Polish Football Association chairman Michal Listkiewicz said.
"This big tournament will be a milestone in the common history of two Slavic nations."
Chelsea's Ukrainian striker, Andriy Shevchenko, and Liverpool's Polish goalkeeper, Jerzy Dudek, supported the bid at a presentation from the two former Communist countries.
Despite their problems the Italians were widely expected to win the vote from UEFA's 14-man executive committee.
They had called for a fresh start to give them an opportunity to put their recent controversies behind them.
The tournament was jointly hosted by Belgium and the Netherlands in 2000 and next year will be staged in Austria and Switzerland.
Although there have been concerns about organizational difficulties UEFA have taken the chance to award the finals to former Eastern Bloc countries for the first time since Yugoslavia hosted the 1976 event.
The winning bid had been considered the outsider of the three, partly because of a recent match-fixing scandal in Poland.
The Polish government has also been warned by Uefa and Fifa about political interference in the country's football governing body.
Przemyslaw Gosiewski, an aide to Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said."This is a huge chance for Poland.
"It will be our chance to show we are capable of organizing large sports events like world championships or even the Olympics.
"This is our passport to enter the club of elite countries,"
Poland's national team coach, Dutch national Leo Beenhakker, expressed his delight and urged government and sports officials to get down to work to prepare for the prestigious competition.
"It means a lot for Polish football and I am very happy," Beenhakker, who took over as trainer of the Polish national squad after its disastrous World Cup campaign last year, said on TVP 3 public television.
"The government and federation have to start working to create better infrastructure, better stadiums and training facilities. That is the most important task for Polish football at the moment," Beenhakker said.
Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko said:"The Euro 2012 will become a remarkable opportunity for Ukrainians and the Polish people to receive the best representatives of the European football family and to present an outstanding football event to the game's lovers throughout the world," he said.
"Ukraine and Poland are capable of holding such an important event at the very high level," he added. "
Games will be played in four Ukrainian cities - Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Kiev and Lviv and six Polish venues - Gdansk, Krakow, Poznan, Warsaw, Wroclaw and Chorzow.
Kiev's Olympic Stadium, used to host soccer at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, is the proposed venue for the final.
Italians not surprised
Italian League president Antonio Matarrese said: "I'm not surprised this has happened"
Matarrese, told Italy's La7 television station from Cardiff : "We are coming out of one of the most terrible tragedies in the history of Italian football," referring to the death of police inspector Filippo Raciti outside Catania's Massimino stadium.
"The fact we've lost this bid is not a catastrophe, but at this point we need to take stock and start reorganizing."
Italy's Sports Minister Giovanna Melandri congratulated the organizers of the winning bid, but said that the government's plan to reform Italian football would go ahead regardless.
"UEFA has made a political and a sporting choice, they've given a chance to two countries that have only recently entered into the European footballing family," she told La7.
"Of course I'm disappointed. I still believe the dossier we submitted was a good one, but now we need to congratulate the winners and push ahead with our own programme of reforms and rebuilding of Italian football.
"From the government's point of view, we always said that whether we won the Euro 2012 bid or not would not alter our intention to rebuild football by one centimeter.
"I still believe we need to change the existing model of public ownership of the stadiums that doesn't work and move towards private ownership," she said.
"The anti-violence plan that was made law earlier this month will enter its second phase soon, with the training of stewards to ensure security inside the grounds."
Italian national team manager Gigi Riva also said it was time to look ahead.
"We did everything we could. We made a good presentation, we were well organized," he said. "We've got a lot of challenges to overcome in Italy that are more important than hosting Euro 2012. Let's concentrate on winning those".