England will face co-hosts Ukraine, as well as Sweden and France in the group phase of the 2012 European Championships.
In what is a favourable draw for Fabio Capello's side, the Three
Lions will go head-to-head with the French in their opening fixture, in a repeat of the
2004 European Championships when Zinedine Zidane famously scored twice
in injury-time to snatch a 2-1 victory in Lisbon.
England beat Sweden 1-0 at Wembley only last month, having defeated
world and European champions Spain by the same scoreline four days
NEWS: Fixtures for Euro 2012
Group A: Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic
Group B: Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Portugal
Group C: Spain, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Croatia
Group D: Ukraine, Sweden, France, England
Traditional rivals Germany and
Netherlands will lock horns in a tough group, while co-hosts Poland will be
hoping that history does not repeat itself when Greece provide
the opposition on the opening day next June.
The event, the third biggest in global sport after the World
Cup and Olympic Games, starts with a reminder of when outsiders
Greece gatecrashed the opening day party of 2004 hosts Portugal
with a 2-1 win on their way to a stunning tournament triumph.
"I hope that does not happen again, we would not want to
experience what Portugal experienced on the first day of Euro
2004," Poland coach Franciszek Smuda told reporters looking
ahead to the June 8 game in Warsaw.
"This is a good draw for us, it's not a group of death. It's
not an easy group either and it will require a lot of effort to
"Greece have a good team. Everything will depend on the
first game in the group against them and whether we win it."
The flesh was put on the bones of the biggest sporting event
to take place in eastern Europe since the 1980 Moscow Olympics
when the 16 finalists were drawn into four groups for the
competition which runs from June 8 to July 1 next year.
More than 1.4 million visitors are expected to come to
Poland and Ukraine and sample the delights of cities as far
apart as Gdansk in northern Poland and Donetsk in southern
Ukraine, separated by a distance of around 2,500 kilometres.
As well as facing Greece in Group A, Poland will also meet
eastern European rivals Russia in Warsaw and the Czech Republic
Smuda's side have a reasonable chance of advancing from the
quartet, which is far from the toughest of the four and was
kinder than Ukraine's group.
They have been bracketed with Sweden, England and France in
Group D with Ukraine playing their first game against the Swedes
in their capital Kiev on June 11.
Inconsistent France beat Ukraine 4-1 in a friendly in
Donetsk in June and will be one of the championship's dark
horses, along with England, who will be without the suspended
Wayne Rooney for the start of the tournament.
Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin said: "What can you say apart
from you will never face easy opposition in the Euros so whoever
we played, it was going to be a challenge. But our stadiums are
ready, our people are ready and the players will be ready."
Group B brought together four strong opponents in the
toughest-looking pool with Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and
Portugal all renewing old rivalries.
The rivalry between the Germans and the Dutch has evolved
into one of the most intense in international football dating from
the 1974 World Cup final when the then West Germany beat hot
favourites Netherlands 2-1 in the final in Munich.
The Dutch gained a modicum of revenge when they beat West
Germany 2-1 in the semi-final of Euro 88 in Hamburg before
going on to be crowned European champions back in Munich.
The present day Germany, under coach Joachim Low, are
heavily backed to be crowned European champions for a
record-extending fourth time thanks to their youth and played
superbly to beat the Dutch 3-0 in a friendly in Hamburg last
Netherlands, the 2010 World Cup runners-up, are highly-rated
too though and their meeting in their second group game in the
Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on June 13 should be one of the
highlights of the first round.
"It is the toughest group. Netherlands and Portugal have
world-class players. We can look forward to very interesting
duels," Low said.
Portugal and Denmark were in the same qualifying group for
the finals, with Denmark coach Morten Olsen commenting: "We all
know each other so well, we have beaten them and they have
beaten us and it is going to be a very tough group to get
Spain are naturally the favourites, backed to become the
first holders to retain the Henri Delaunay trophy, and will face
Italy, Republic of Ireland and Croatia in a Group C which the southern
European superpowers should both advance from.
Spain have never beaten Italy in a major tournament apart
from a penalty shootout win over the Azzurri in the
quarter-finals of the last Euros in Vienna in 2008.
The draw brought a wry smile to the face of Ireland's
Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni, who will face his countrymen
for the fourth time since taking charge of Ireland, winning one
and drawing twice against the team he used to manage.
"We all know Italy and their strengths so it is not going to
be easy," he said. "But like the last times I have faced them, I
will be wanting to beat them on the day."
The draw was conducted by UEFA General Secretary Gianni
Infantino at Kiev's Palace of Arts before a crowd of invited
guests and football celebrities.
He was assisted by four former European champions, Zinedine
Zidane of France, Dutch ace Marco van Basten, Danish goalkeeper
Peter Schmeichel and German striker Horst Hrubesch.
The finals will be the third to be co-hosted and will be
played at four stadiums in Poland - Warsaw, Gdansk, Wroclaw and
Poznan, and four in Ukraine - Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lviv.
Euro 2012 will be the last tournament to be staged with 16
teams. The tournament expands to 24 nations at its next edition
in 2016 in France.
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