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Eastern Europe’s UEFA Cup love affair still burning

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What have the UEFA Cup and the Eurovision song contest got in common?

A) Some people don’t take them as seriously as they could.

B) They give lesser known participants the chance to appear on prime-time TV.

C) East European countries have started to dominate them

And the answer, I’m starting to think, is C … because of A and B.

This year will be the third year in the past six that an ex-Soviet team plays in the UEFA Cup final after victories by Russian sides Zenit St Petersburg last year and CSKA Moscow in 2005.

Watching Shakhtar Donetsk’s dramatic victory over fellow Ukrainian team Dynamo Kiev, I wondered why eastern European teams were enjoying such a love affair with a competition others have lost their passion for.

Then it struck me — it’s not the competition itself, it’s the winning. Winning anything … even the things no one else takes every seriously.

In a similar trend to Europe’s second-tier club competition, seven of the last 10 winners or runners-up in the continent’s bottom-rung singing competition have been east European.

Ukraine overawed by (lack of) Wembley atmosphere

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Ukraine coach Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko said his players had been overawed by the Wembley atmosphere in their 2-1 World Cup defeat by England but their nerves must have been based on the twin-towered mystique of the old stadium rather than the soulless feeling of the new.

At a cost of 800 million pounds ($1.15 billion), the new Wembley undoubtedly looks impressive and there was no hint of the credit crunch as the wine flowed in the packed private dining suites before the game.

Will Euro 2012 take place in Poland and Ukraine?

As the dust settles on a turbulent few weeks for Polish soccer, a wider question is being asked in the game’s corridors of power. Did UEFA make a mistake in awarding Euro 2012 to Poland and Ukraine?

Despite both countries receiving explicit warnings from European soccer’s governing body, they are still well behind in their preparations, so much so that UEFA may have to rethink the number of stadia to be used.

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