December 2011: Dynamite at the European Championship

Shortly before the conclusion of the draw at the Palace of Arts in Kiev, Morten Olsen, the coach of the Danish team, summed it up with just one sentence: “That group is dynamite” said the former top player. He was referring to the teams drawn in Group B at the 2012 European Championships. The 2010 World Cup runners-up Netherlands, 2008 European runners-up Germany, Portugal and Denmark make up this group, of which only two will progress to the quarter-finals.

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The logo of the European Championship to be hosted by Poland and Ukraine under the direction of the European Football Association, UEFA, on June 8-July 1, 2012. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)

“That’s the toughest group of all”, said Bert van Marwijk, the coach of the Netherlands, ranked second in the world. Third-ranked Germany are there, having won the last encounter between the two great rivals 3-0 in Hamburg on November 15; as are Portugal, ranked seventh in the world, and the Danes who are listed in eleventh position by the International Football Federation, FIFA.

But is Group B really the toughest of all, drawn from glass pots on December 3 by the former top stars and European champions Marco van Basten, Zinedine Zidane and Horst Hrubesch? Isn’t Group C, with reigning World Cup champions Spain, Italy, Croatia and Ireland, who will build a compact defence under their Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni, as difficult to call and tough to get through? And what should England say? For the English don’t have a free ticket either to get into the second round, the knock-out stage, and hopefully achieve their first European title, as their opponents in Group D are France, Ukraine and Sweden.

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The coaches of the European Championship Group A teams (from left): Michal Bikal (Czech Republic), Dick Advocaat (Russia), Fernando Santos (Greece), Frantisek Smuda (Poland). (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


The only agreement among observers was that Group A seems to be the easiest, bringing together Poland, Greece, Russia and the Czech Republic to earn the tag of “Eastern Group”. Three teams from the former Eastern Bloc, and Greece from south-east Europe will play each other. However, there are after all three former European champions among them, if Russia and the Czech Republic are considered the legitimate successors to the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. The opening match in Warsaw on June 8 between Poland and Greece hardly seems the most thrilling of encounters. However, a prognostication of who will survive in this group is as difficult as in the others.

Danish reaction: “It’s a real nightmare”

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The coaches of the European Championship Group B teams (from left): Joachim Loew (Germany), Morten Olsen (Denmark), Carlos Queiroz (Portugal), Bert van Marwijk (Netherlands). (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


The Danes appeared to be the most shocked, a fact portrayed in their press reactions. “A Real Nightmare”, “Death Group”, “Cabinet of Horror”, “It Can’t Get Worse”. Denmark’s newspapers followed Morten Olsen’s dire assessment. The matches will take place in Lviv and Charkiv in the Ukraine. The newspaper “BT” sarcastically commented: “Congratulation, fans. You have won a travel ticket to the Ukraine and you can watch as Denmark are taken apart”. German national coach Joachim Loew saw it differently: “The Danes are a tournament team. They are hard to beat. The players are very tough, they don’t fear anybody”. Twenty years on, and in the smallest EURO stadium with a capacity of 33,200 in Lviv, the German team could take revenge for the 2-0 defeat in the 1992 European Championship final in Gothenburg. Loew took the draw quite coolly. His aim is that in Kiev on July 1, the fourth European title after 1972, 1980 and 1996 will be achieved for the German Football Association, DFB. However, the 51-year-old did not deny that his team could fail early. “We may be in a group of death as many maintain, and I think that the hammer can fall at any time on every team at the European Championship.”

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The coaches of the European Championship Group C teams (from left): Slaven Bilic (Croatia), Giovanni Trapattoni (Ireland), Cesare Prandelli (Italy), Vicente del Bosque(Spain). (Photo:Firo/Augenklick)


England’s first kick-off in the major continental event on June 11, the last possible day, against France in Donetsk, will be followed in the stadium to stage the final in Kiev against Sweden on June 15, and conclude the group stage against co-hosts Ukraine on June 19, again in Donetsk. Coach Fabio Capello, who may have to make do in the group stage without striker Wayne Rooney, after his red card in Montenegro during qualification, didn’t think the draw too bad for England. “Group B is very tough. Group A would possibly have been the easiest, but we are happy to be in Group D”, the Italian said. The England team will play in the Ukraine but stay in Krakow in Poland. The Germans will also play in the Ukraine and stay in Gdansk on the Polish Baltic Sea coast.However, all teams will have to travel extensively.

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The coaches of the European Championship Group D teams (from left): Oleg Blochin (Ukraine), Erik Hamren (Sweden), Laurent Blanc (France), Fabio Capello (England). (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


Dates of the group matches at EURO 2012:

Group A
Friday, June 8

POL v GRE, 18.00 CET, Warsaw
RUS v CZE, 20.45 CET, Wroclaw

Tuesday, June 12 
GRE v CZE, 18.00 CET, Wroclaw
POL v RUS, 20.45 CET, Warsaw

Saturday, June 16
CZE v POL, 20.45 CET, Wroclaw
GRE v RUS, 20.45 CET, Warsaw

Group B
Saturday,  June 9
NED v DEN, 18.00 CET, Charkiv
GER v POR, 20.45 CET, Lviv

Wednesday, June 13
DEN v POR, 18.00 CET, Lviv
NED
v GER, 20.45 CET, Charkiv

Sunday, June 17
POR v NED, 20.45 CET, Charkiv
DEN v GER, 20.45 CET, Lviv

Group C
Sunday, June 10

ESP v ITA, 18.00 CET, Gdansk
IRL v CRO, 20.45 , Poznan

Thursday, June 14
ITA v CRO, 18.00 CET, Poznan
ESP v IRL, 20.45 CET, Gdansk

Monday, June 18
CRO v ESP, 20.45 CET, Gdansk
ITA v IRL, 20.45 CET, Poznan

Group D
Monday, June 11

FRA v ENG, 18.00 CET, Donetsk
UKR v SWE, 20.45 CET, Kyiv

Friday, June 15
UKR v FRA, 18.00 CET, Donetsk
SWE v ENG, 20.45 CET, Kyiv

Tuesday, June 19
ENG v UKR, 20.45 CET, Donetsk
SWE v FRA, 20.45 CET, Kyiv