The who’s who of European football gathered in Kiev Friday night for the Euro2012 draw.
To no great surprise there will be a host of mouthwatering ties on the menu for next summers tournament in Poland and Ukraine – the last 16 teams finals before the competition expands to 24 teams in France 2016.
Russia, who under the USSR flag won the inaugural edition in 1960 and were semi finalists last time out in Switzerland and Austria, were draw in Group A which has a distinctly eastern feel to it.
Dick Advocaat’s men have been drawn alongside The Czech Republic, co hosts Poland and Greece.
Poland have the honour of kickstarting the event when they take on 2004 champions Greece on June 8 in Warsaw.
Three times champions Germany were placed in Group B and will yet again lock horns with fierce rivals The Netherlands, as well as Portugal and Denmark after being drawn together in what is arguably the toughest group of the tournament.
Coach Joachim Loew said: ‘‘Portugal is filled with stars who play in big clubs like Real and Manchester United. They have Ronaldo and Nani for their spectacular attack and also a very good defence with Pepe just to mention one. This will be a very exciting and interesting group.”
So here’s confirmation of what some are already calling the group of death.
World and European champions Spain will begin their bid to become the first nation to win back to back Euro titles in Group C. They should fancy their chances of progressing to the knockout stages but will take nothing for granted according to coach Vicente Del Bosque who said: “We are going to fight. As good sportsmen we must respect our rivals and let us see if we are able to achieve this wonderful challenge which is to win three major competitions in a row.”
Completing Group C are Spain’s old rivals Italy, Ireland and Croatia.
Fabio Capello’s England were drawn in group D – having missed the last edition four years ago they will look to put that embarrassment and their 2010 world cup fiasco well and truly behind them.
But they will have to negotiate a group that boasts bogey team Sweden, co hosts Ukraine and France.
France coach Laurent Blanc said: “All groups are complicated particularly group B. Do not forget we could have been in that group instead of Denmark. We are never satisfied 100% in a draw. I think tonight it could have been more complicated, more dangerous for France. We are in a more balanced group with England as favourites and three other teams with good chances to go through.”
So here it is – the final group line-up for Euro 2012 which begins on June 8. France and England get group D started three days later.
As always every tournament has its ball – Euro2012 is no different.
Tango12 will have the honour of being booted around Poland and Ukraine by Europe’s finest.
Group A – 1. Poland 2. Greece 3. Russia 4. Czech Republic
Group B – 1. Netherlands 2. Denmark 3. Germany 4. Portugal
Group C – 1. Spain 2. Italy 3. Ireland 4. Croatia
Group D – 1. Ukraine 2. Sweden 3. France 4. England