Fri, Dec 02, 2011 - Page 18 News List

All eyes turn to Kiev to discover Euro 2012 fate

‘GROUP OF DEATH’:Europe’s top soccer nations will soon find out if they are to be in a group with undefeated Germany or weaker teams when Euro 2012 kicks off

AFP, KIEV

Europe’s top soccer nations gather in Kiev today to discover their fate when the draw takes place for Euro 2012 with all eyes looking out for a so-called “Group of Death.”

The draw takes place at the National Palace of Arts in the Ukrainian capital, with a host of previous European champions set to help out to decide which teams will play where and when with the tournament set to kick off on June 8.

Four groups made up of four sides will be drawn with a team coming from each of four pots and the draw will be beamed by 70 broadcasters to 150 countries.

Co-hosts Poland and the Ukraine are both in Pot One, along with World Cup finalists Holland and holders Spain, who have to be regarded as favorites owing to their status as World and European champions.

POWERHOUSES

Soccer powerhouses Germany, England, Italy and Russia are in Pot Two and none of the four will give their opponents an easy time in the group stages.

Former European champions Greece, who lifted the Euro 2004 title, are in Pot Three along with Portugal, Sweden and Croatia.

Denmark, Euro 2000 champions France, Ireland and the Czech Republic make up Pot Four.

Potentially, Spain, who lifted the Euro 2008 title in Vienna, could find themselves along with Greece, France and Germany, Euro ’96 winners, in a group made up of the last four title winners.

However, whatever the groups throw up, France coach Laurent Blanc has said he is just eager to avoid Germany, who along with Spain, came through their qualification campaign with the perfect record of 10 wins.

PRAYERS

The Frenchman told sports daily L’Equipe he has lit a candle with a prayer “France is not in the same Euro 2012 group as Germany.”

Since finishing third at last year’s World Cup finals, Germany have impressed this year with friendly wins over Brazil and the Netherlands, but coach Joachim Loew said he was in a relaxed mood.

“I have no potential dream or nightmare opponents, we know that anything is possible and we will take the draw as it comes,” the 51-year-old said. “The European Championships involve the top teams and is an attractive tournament, there won’t be any easy games either in the group stages or the knock-out games.”

“If Euro 2012 was starting tomorrow, I would be pleased, but a lot can change in football in six months,” Loew said.

MUTUAL FEELINGS

While the Germans would no doubt like to avoid Spain, who beat them in last year’s World Cup semi-final, the feeling is mutual.

“Germany has added the extra characteristics of ‘tournament team’ and ‘battled-hardened’ to their qualities,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said.

He has also warned against Spanish complacency.

“The challenge ahead is to do the best possible, because we have an added responsibility after winning the European Championships and the World Cup,” he told -Spanish newspaper Sport.

Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk has said the Oranje have no one to fear, despite Germany’s 3-0 drubbing of them in Hamburg, Germany, on Nov. 12.

THREE LIONS

The Three Lions of England will also be among the favorites to lift the title in the final to be held in Kiev on July 1.

The three-week long tournament will be hosted by four cities in each country: Warsaw, Wroclaw, Gdansk and Poznan in Poland; Kiev, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lviv in the Ukraine.

The tournament was awarded to the former Warsaw Pact nations in April 2007, when bids from Italy and Croatia-Hungary were narrowly beaten.

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