By Brian Homewood
REUTERS - Thirty-two countries, ranging from Finland and Sweden to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Macedonia and Kazakhstan, have declared interest in hosting matches at Euro 2020 which will be staged across the continent.
Germany, France, England, Spain and Italy were all among the bidders named by UEFA on Friday following a meeting of its executive committee in Dubrovnik, as were Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Israel and Belarus.
Potential hosts were given until last week to declare an interest and must present their full bid dossiers by April, with the 13 venues to be chosen in September next year.
"We are extremely proud to see the huge interest in the bidding process, with more than half of our member associations willing to host matches at Euro 2020," said UEFA President Michel Platini.
"The finals will be a great celebration of football across the European continent, and the 60th anniversary edition will be truly special, by really coming to the doorstep of all football fans."
Countries which declined to bid included Austria, Norway, Slovenia and Slovakia, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. UEFA has 54 member federations.
In a radical departure from the conventional format for major tournaments, UEFA decided last year to spread the tournament around its member associations to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the European Championship.
Each of the 32 countries can present up to two bids, one for a package of three group matches and a round of 16 or quarter-final game and one for the special package of the two semi-finals and a final. Only one city can be appointed per country.
The required stadium capacities would be 70,000 for the semi-finals and final, 60,000 for the quarter-finals and 50,000 for the group stage and round of 16 matches. Two exceptions will be made where 30,000 capacity stadiums would be permitted.
The decision to stage the semi-finals and final in the same venue takes the competition back to its early days when a four-team final stage was played. The full tournament format was started at the 1980 championship held in Italy.
Countries had to nominate potential host cities which they can change until the final bids are handed over in April.
Potential venue cities - Armenia (Yerevan), Azerbaijan (Baku), Belarus (Minsk), Belgium (Brussels), Bulgaria (Sofia), Croatia (Zagreb), Czech Republic (Prague), Denmark (Copenhagen), England (London), Finland (Helsinki), France (Lyon), Macedonia (Skopje), Germany (Munich), Greece (Athens), Hungary (Budapest), Israel (Jerusalem), Italy (Rome or Milan), Kazakhstan (Astana), Netherlands (Amsterdam), Poland (Warsaw and Chorzow), Portugal (Lisbon or Porto), Republic of Ireland (Dublin), Romania (Bucharest), Russia (St Petersburg), Scotland (Glasgow), Serbia (Belgrade), Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao or Valencia), Sweden (Solna), Switzerland (Basel), Turkey (Istanbul), Ukraine (Kiev or Donetsk) and Wales(Cardiff). (Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Ed Osmond)
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Ed Osmond)