Platini hails Europe's youthful WC semifinalists

Platini hails Europe's youthful WC semifinalists

Published Jul. 6, 2010 9:46 a.m. ET

UEFA president Michel Platini has praised Europe's three World Cup semifinal teams for promoting young, creative players.

Platini pointed out that Germany, the Netherlands and Spain have also been the three most successful nations in European youth tournaments in recent years.

"Can all of this be put down to mere good luck? I don't think so," the former France great wrote in a column for UEFA's website. "It represents a victory for the beautiful game, with the accent placed on attacking football.

"It is just reward for the long-term efforts of three associations who have invested in education and training."


Under Platini's leadership since 2007, UEFA has promoted a homegrown player rule encouraging clubs to select players aged under 23 who were trained in that home country.

Teams playing in UEFA's showpiece Champions League competition must name at least eight "locally trained" players in a squad of 25.

Platini said "nothing could be more pleasing" than to see Germany, the Netherlands and Spain share his philosophy for football.

"Three teams with youth and freshness at their heart, deploying playing systems that leave considerable room for creativity," said Platini, who inspired a popular, elegant France team to the World Cup semifinals in 1982 and '86.

"This not only makes me happy - three great football nations can also derive pleasure."

Germany has won worldwide admiration for its free-scoring play by a squad including six members of the team which won the UEFA-organized European under-21 title last year.

Four of the six - playmaker Mesut Oezil, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, defensive midfielder Sami Khedira and defender Jerome Boateng - started Germany's thrilling 4-0 victory over Argentina on Saturday.

Three more on the roster, including midfielder Thomas Mueller who scored the first goal against Argentina, are still eligible for next year's under-21 finals.

The Netherlands won back-to-back European Under-21 titles in 2006 and '07, while Spain has been Europe's most consistent performer across all age-group football in four straight seasons.

Spain's World Cup team - like its 2008 European Championship-winning lineup - has a strong core of players who grew up as teenagers in the Barcelona club academy, including midfielders Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas.

Platini said the European trio is poised to claim a historic victory for the continent.

Uruguay is South America's sole representative in the semifinals. The Germans and Spanish meet in the second semifinal in Durban on Wednesday, with the final at Soccer City on Sunday.

Promoting youth was "a model policy which could, for the first time in football history, enable a European team to win a World Cup staged outside our continent," Platini said.