While the kick-off next June remains the focus for fans across Poland and Ukraine, there was also time last autumn to reflect on past achievements as some of the co-hosts greatest players were honoured for the mark they have made on the international stage. In August, EUFA launched a new award to pay tribute to players from UEFA's 53 member associations who have made 100 or more appearances for their national team and Michal Zewlakow and Grzegorz Lato (Poland), alongside Oleh Blokhin, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Andrei Shevchenko (Ukraine), were among the first centurions their commemorative cap and medal.
Zewlakow only retired from international football after his record 102nd game for Poland in March and was thrilled to receive his award ahead of the national side's first match at the new Arena Gdansk- a 2-2 draw against Germany - on 6 September. "It is terrific to be honored by UEFA in such a special place before such a historic event," said the Legia Warsawa defender. "I felt again, if only for a few seconds, what it means to be part of the national team." Zewlakow received his award from the Polish Football Federation (PZPN) president, Grzegorz Lato, who appeared for his country 100 times between 1971 and 1984, and is now overseeing Poland's preparations for the finals. Lato was presented with his award by the UEFA president, Michel Platini, on 21 September. "It is fantastic idea to honor players in this way," Gregorz Lato said. "It isn't easy to win 100 caps for your country, so anyone who does should be respected."
Ukraine's three centurions will have an even more direct bearing on results at UEFA EURO 2012 than the PZPN president. Blokhin is coach of the national side and Shevchenko and Tymoschuk are both key members of his squad. Born in Kyiv and a star for his local side FC Dynamo Kyiv, Blokhin held the record for caps (112) and goals 42 for the Soviet national team.Shevchenko became the first player to reach 100 caps for Ukraine in October 2010, having at that point, with Tymoschuk making his 100th appearance three days later.
"I'm delighted to receive this prestigious award from UEFA," Shevchenko said. "I have been playing for Ukraine for over 15 years and have had a lot of memorable games. I hope we now perform to our best during EURO 2012." Tymoschuk added: "I'm pleased to be among the first Ukrainian players to receive this award and hope in future will be more to follow."
LIST OF 100 CAPS AWARD WINNERS:
Jon Dahl Tomasson
Sir Bobby Charlton
Edwin van der Sar
Frank de Boer
Giovanni van Bronckhorst
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