June 2012: Marvellous European Championship start with Continental

All eight stadiums were magnificently prepared, the eight cities in Poland and the Ukraine were all dressed up, and 16 teams had been raring to go for up to one month before the kick-off. They all played their first matches at the European Championship between Friday (June 8) and Monday (June 11). Host Poland began with the opening match in Warsaw, while co-host Ukraine concluded the first round of eight matches in Kiev. Germany were the only team among the favourites to record a win.

ContiSoccerWorld, Conti, Continental, Reifen, Fußball, FIFA WM 2010, Confederations Cup 2005, Hildebrand, Casillas, UEFA EURO 2008, Koerbel, Deutschland, Sponsoring, German Engineering, Conti-Stars, WM-Tickets gewinnen, Tickets, FIFA-Partner

ContiSoccerWorld, Conti, Continental, Reifen, Fußball, FIFA WM 2010, Confederations Cup 2005, Hildebrand, Casillas, UEFA EURO 2008, Koerbel, Deutschland, Sponsoring, German Engineering, Conti-Stars, WM-Tickets gewinnen, Tickets, FIFA-Partner
Mario Gomez scores with a header to give Germany a 1-0 lead against Portugal in the Group B match at the European Championship in Lviv. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)

  


The three-time European champions defeated Portugal 1-0 in Group B in Lviv. Reigning World Cup runners-up Netherlands had earlier suffered a 1-0 defeat by Denmark in Group B in Kharkov, considered the biggest upset in the first round of these championships. Title holders Spain only managed a 1-1 draw with Italy in Group C in Gdansk, and France could also only draw 1-1 with England in Group D in Donetsk.

The 1-1 score was the most registered result in all the opening encounters. Hosts Poland had to be content with a 1-1 draw with Greece in Group A after starting very strongly. Russia celebrated a convincing 4-1 victory over the Czech Republic in Group A in Wroclaw, and Croatia beat Ireland 3-1 in Group C in Poznan. And the Ukraine hit the headlines with a 2-1 win over Sweden in Group D in Kiev.

ContiSoccerWorld, Conti, Continental, Reifen, Fußball, FIFA WM 2010, Confederations Cup 2005, Hildebrand, Casillas, UEFA EURO 2008, Koerbel, Deutschland, Sponsoring, German Engineering, Conti-Stars, WM-Tickets gewinnen, Tickets, FIFA-Partner

ContiSoccerWorld, Conti, Continental, Reifen, Fußball, FIFA WM 2010, Confederations Cup 2005, Hildebrand, Casillas, UEFA EURO 2008, Koerbel, Deutschland, Sponsoring, German Engineering, Conti-Stars, WM-Tickets gewinnen, Tickets, FIFA-Partner
Russian Igor Denisov (left) in a tussle with Czech Tomas Hubschmann. The Russians celebrated a convincing 4-1 win over the Czechs in Group A in Wroclaw. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


Three double scorers – Shevchenko sets Ukraine rejoicing

Apart from just a few empty seats at some matches, the stadiums were full, the atmosphere electric. The European Football Union (UEFA), organisers of EURO 2012, and their local committees in the eight cities had done a perfect job. After the first few days Grzegorz Lato, President of the Polish Football Association, drew a positive initial conclusion: “When the infra-structure and overall organisation of the tournament is considered, everything looks near perfect”, said the top scorer at the 1974 World Cup.

Everything went smoothly, peacefully, without major incidents. There was sporting rivalry between the teams, but no trouble among the groups of fans accompanying and cheering on their heroes. The stadiums and their surrounds had been dressed up colourfully by UEFA. Continental AG, as one of the major European Championship sponsors, enjoyed the limelight on the advertising boards while the best footballers on the continent fought for supremacy.

A comparison of the pre-tournament favourites wasn’t possible after the first round. “We are watching the other teams with interest, but without assessment”, said Oliver Bierhoff, the manager of the German national team. The 2008 European runners-up had difficulties gaining their stride against the Portuguese. Mario Gomez, who was preferred to Miroslav Klose, scored the all-important goal in the 72nd minute. “That was my most important goal for the national team, and my first at a European Championship”, said the 26-year-old striker of FC Bayern Munich. “A dead weight has been taken off my shoulders”, added Gomez, who didn’t perform well at the 2008 Europeans and the 2010 World Cup according to his own standards. But the Swabian, whose father came from Spain, was criticised again after the success against Portugal. “Since I have been a football player I have had to deal with criticism despite being successful”.

ContiSoccerWorld, Conti, Continental, Reifen, Fußball, FIFA WM 2010, Confederations Cup 2005, Hildebrand, Casillas, UEFA EURO 2008, Koerbel, Deutschland, Sponsoring, German Engineering, Conti-Stars, WM-Tickets gewinnen, Tickets, FIFA-Partner

Spain performed well but without success. “Sometimes it’s difficult to be the favourite”, said goalscorer Cesc Fàbregas, who had to be content with his team’s 1-1 draw, after Antonio de Natale had given Italy a 1-0 lead. The Azzurri considered the one point from their opening match a success after all the domestic turbulence prior to the kick-off. After this classy encounter with Italy, title holders and reigning World Cup champions Spain remained the “top favourites” for Oliver Kahn, the three-time World Goalkeeper of the Year, who is a commentator for the public Second German TV channel.

Kahn only found fault with the wasting of Iberian chances. “Spain haven’t got a Messi”. The genial striker plays with FC Barcelona, but for Argentina at national level.

ContiSoccerWorld, Conti, Continental, Reifen, Fußball, FIFA WM 2010, Confederations Cup 2005, Hildebrand, Casillas, UEFA EURO 2008, Koerbel, Deutschland, Sponsoring, German Engineering, Conti-Stars, WM-Tickets gewinnen, Tickets, FIFA-Partner
Italian Thiago Motta during the 1-1 draw between Italy and Spain in Group C in Gdansk. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)

Spain’s national coach Vicente des Bosque named no out and out striker in his line-up against Italy. The following day the expected level in the match between the French and the English was more disappointing, with Joleon Lescott and Samir Nasri scoring the goals

ContiSoccerWorld, Conti, Continental, Reifen, Fußball, FIFA WM 2010, Confederations Cup 2005, Hildebrand, Casillas, UEFA EURO 2008, Koerbel, Deutschland, Sponsoring, German Engineering, Conti-Stars, WM-Tickets gewinnen, Tickets, FIFA-Partner

ContiSoccerWorld, Conti, Continental, Reifen, Fußball, FIFA WM 2010, Confederations Cup 2005, Hildebrand, Casillas, UEFA EURO 2008, Koerbel, Deutschland, Sponsoring, German Engineering, Conti-Stars, WM-Tickets gewinnen, Tickets, FIFA-Partner
Frenchman Philippe Mexes (left) tackles Englishman Danny Welbeck. The two teams registered a 1-1 draw in Group D in Donetsk. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)


A 1-1, which didn’t particularly please the home side, had been registered in the opening match. Robert Lewandowski had given Poland the lead, then went one man up when Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off, but conceded the equaliser and gave away a penalty, which saw Poland’s keeper Wojciech Szczęsny also shown a red card. Przemysław Tytoń was sent on as goalkeeper and saved the penalty from Greece’s captain Georgios Karagounis with his first touch of the ball.

One of the hosts, however, rejoiced intensely after the last of the first eight matches in the four groups. With his two goals to gain a 2-1 victory over Sweden, Andrey Shevchenko became a national hero, sending the Ukraine into ecstasy. “That was a great victory”, Shevshchenko exclaimed. “I don’t feel 35, more like 20”. Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic and Russia’s Alan Dzagoev also scored twice.