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UEFA Technical Director Gives Euro 2008 the Thumbs up

UEFA Technical Director Andy Roxburgh said on Monday, June 23 that he had been very impressed with the standard of play at the European Championships so far.

Polish supporter prior to the UEFA EURO 2008 Group B preliminary round match between Austria and Poland at the Ernst Happel stadium in Vienna

Euro 2008 has been a real festival of soccer with good quality games and a great atmosphere

He said that with three games remaining at Euro 2008, one could already say that there had been a lot of drama.

The former Scottish national team coach said that the European Championships, the Champions League and the World Cup were the benchmarks for trends in the global game.

"What has been particularly interesting at this tournament is that a lot of late goals have been scored. We have had seven goals in injury time and four in extra time," he said. "There have been a lot of fantastic matches of a very high quality. I think the late goals are an indication that coaches take late decisions to change the outcome of a game.

"These decisions have often had a very big influence on the game," he said, adding that overall the standard of play had been very impressive. "The game has changed and this can be seen at the tournament. A lot of goals have been scored from fast breaks. There has been just one goal from a direct free-kick and even that took a deflection."

Roxburgh, who heads the nine-man UEFA technical committee at the tournament, which on Monday will release an all-star squad of 23 and announce the player of the tournament, said that he was particularly pleased with the attitude of the players towards each other.

The Scotsman said that he was not sure whether it made much difference for players to be at the end of their season. "That is always an issue and there is just one player left in the tournament who played in the Champions League final (Germany captain Michael Ballack).

"The Russian players are in the middle of their season and they are certainly very fit and have just been improving from game to game," he added. "Clearly that they are in the middle of a season will be an advantage, but one can't really say how much of an advantage."

Arshavin the top man so far,says Roxburgh

Roxburgh singled out Russia's Andrei Arshavin as one of the players of the tournament so far, even though he was suspended for the opening two matches.

"He wasn't playing in the first two matches because of suspension but his introduction to the Russian team has been like a sparkle of magic," said Roxburgh. "He almost seems to have ignited them. He has made a good team even better since he has come in. The Russian team is getting stronger and stronger as the competition goes on."

Russia's Andrei Arshavin, left, celebrates after scoring during the group D match between Russia and Sweden in Innsbruck

Arshavin's goal against Sweden was rated highly

Roxburgh also said Arshavin's goal against Sweden, which helped Russia to a 2-0 win and a place in the last eight, was one of the best at the tournament.

The former Scotland boss also gave Germany captain Michael Ballack a special mention for his performance against Portugal. "Against Portugal he was moved into what I call the 'free spirit role' playing up front and suddenly -- boom," Roxburgh said. "He has been playing well in the championship but it seemed as though he came to life against Portugal. That was one of the best matches of the tournament too."

UEFA advisor not drawn on second-string team issue

On the issue of coaches playing reserve sides for their final group games once their teams had already qualified, Roxburgh was non-committal.

Portugal, Croatia, Spain and the Netherlands, who all won their group ahead of their last group game, rested most of their regulars in their final game. Of those, only Spain are left in the tournament.

Netherlands' Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, foreground left, celebrates scoring the opening goal with his teammate Arjen Robben, right, as Romania's Bogdan Lobont looks on during the group C match between the Netherlands and Romania in Bern

Holland effectively played their reserves against Romania

"There are positives and negatives to playing a second-string side. On the one hand you would want to keep the momentum going, on the other you would want to rest players. It is really up to each individual coach to see what work for his side."

Roxburgh said that the competition showed that teams were, on the one hand, dominated by efficiency, with no room for error, while on the other hand there has also been a lot of emphasis on solo play.

"It is about balance. The top teams have both, both efficiency and quality," he said, naming Germany a prime example," Roxburgh said. "You have them being clinical and efficient, but you also have a player like Michael Ballack, who played very well when he was given a free role."

Roxburgh praises co-hosts

He complimented the two co-hosts Austria and Switzerland even though both teams went out in the group stage. "They have been brilliant hosts. In terms of football they had great passion and wonderful enthusiasm. What they lacked was the finishing touch. Being knocked out has not really affected the tournament at all. It was unfortunate and sad to see them go, but they have and are brilliant hosts," said Roxburgh.

Meanwhile UEFA admitted that ticketing problems had resulted in the stadiums not being filled for some of the matches at Euro 2008.

The director of communications and Public Affairs of Europe's governing football body, William Gaillard, said that although all the games had been sold out, some seats had been empty.

"There were again some empty seats in Sunday's quarter-final clash between Spain and Italy. This happens because teams that have received tickets have not returned them to us," he said. "When we were made aware of this, we tried to sell them, but could not manage."

Russian fans celebrate during the group D match between Russia and Sweden in Innsbruck

Russia's fans could face ticketing stress for the semis

He added that as a result UEFA had decided to restrict the ticket allocation to Russia and Italy for semi-final matches. "Obviously this will make no difference in the case of Italy, as they have been knocked out, but Russia will only receive 4,000 instead of 6,000 tickets for their semi-final game against Spain."

Ticketing woes lead to discussions for semi-finals

A spokesman for the Euro organizing committee said that they would be speaking to the four semi-finalists to try to ensure that the ticketing problems which resulted in empty seats, would not be repeated.

"I do not, at this stage, want to give details how we are going to solve the problem," Wolfgang Eichler said.

When tickets for Euro were first offered earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of soccer fans failed to secure one, partly because the stadiums in Switzerland and Austria are so small.

The German Soccer Federation (DFB) alone had 2,630,027 applications for tickets - more than double the amount of total tickets for the tournament.

Gaillard said that UEFA was considering a more flexible ticketing system for the 2012 Euro in Ukraine and Poland.

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