Euro 2012 - England get France, tough group for Ireland

Fri, 02 Dec 17:39:00 2011

England have been paired with Ukraine, Sweden and France after the draw for the Euro 2012 finals in Kiev but Ireland have a tougher task.

The teams in Group C and Group D are shown on a television screen following the draw ceremony of the Euro 2012 football championships at the National Palace of Arts in Kiev - 0

England will open against France in Donetsk on June 11 before moving to Kiev to face Sweden on June 15 and then returning to Donetsk to face Ukraine four days later.

England have already selected Krakow in Poland as their training base which means they will face journeys of up to 930 miles to Donetsk and 540 miles to Kiev.

Asked if England would shift their planned base in Krakow, Poland, coach Fabio Capello said: "No, absolutely not, because I think it is better to find a really good place and facilities.

"I think the favourites are always Spain ... they are the best team in the world at the moment. Also Holland are a good team. Probably you can find some surprises, when I think about surprises I think Portugal."

Ireland will play their matches in Poland but life looks tougher for them after they were paired with Spain, Italy and Croatia.

The Irish open their campaign against Croatia in Poznan on 10 June, then face Spain in Gdansk on 14 June before playing Italy on 18 June back in Poznan.

"We have to play with the same mentality we have shown previously and I am confident," said Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni.

"I know Italy better but every game is different. Spain are also a very strong team but we have to think about our moment. It will be important our squad is complete with no injuries," said the Italian.

Traditional rivals Germany and Netherlands will lock horns yet again after the two neighbours were drawn together on Friday in the toughest group of the 16-nation tournament.

The two will play each other on June 13 in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv in Group B, which also includes two other difficult-to-beat western European nations, Portugal and Denmark.

The tournament, being co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, will open on June 8 in Warsaw when the Poles take on 2004 champions Greece. Russia and Czech Republic are also in Group A which has a distinctly eastern feel.

The draw was conducted by UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino at Kiev's Palace of Arts before a crowd of invited guests and footballcelebrities.

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 fierce rivalry between Germany and Netherlands dates from the first competitive fixture, the 1974 World Cup final when Germany came from behind to beat the Dutch, hot favourites that year, 2-1 in Munich.

It was compounded when Van Basten and co took on and beat Germany 2-1 in the 1988 Euro semi-finals in Hamburg, going on to win the title in Munich, of all places.

Germany coach Joachim Loew said: "It is the most difficult group of all. It will be very challenging but it's good that we start with a tough group like that."

Dutch team chief Bert van Marwijk agreed it was the hardest group. "It will be a very big challenge," he said.

Spain beat Italy on penalties in the quarter-finals of the 2008 tournament staged in Austria and Switzerland which they went on to win. The two have met 29 times in all with Italy winning 10 times to eight for Spain.

The 2012 finals will be the third to be co-hosted.

It will be played at four stadiums in Poland - Warsaw, Gdansk, Wroclaw and Poznan, and four in Ukraine - Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lviv.

UEFA and Ukrainian football chiefs said on Friday they had feared at some points that Ukraine would not be able to stage its part of the 31-match tournament because of stadium and infrastructure delays and difficulties.

But Infantino told a news conference he was now confident the tournament would be a success and that all tickets would be sold.

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.

Group A

Poland

Russia

Greece

Czech Republic

Group B

Netherlands

Germany

Portugal

Denmark

Group C

Spain

Italy

Croatia

Republic of Ireland

Group D

Ukraine

England

Sweden

France

Capello hopes for revenge over France

Eurosport / Reuters

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