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Saturday, December 3, 2011


The draw for the finals of the 2012 European Championship was held this evening at the Palace of Arts in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev (or Kyiv, if you prefer), and interesting times lie ahead for both Ireland and England. The teams, per group, were drawn during the live draw as follows (top seeds in italics):

GROUP A: POLAND, Czech Republic, Greece, Russia
GROUP B: HOLLAND, Denmark, Portugal, Germany
GROUP C: SPAIN, IRELAND, Croatia, Italy 


8/6/11   Poland : Greece (18:00, Warszawa)
8/6/11   Russia : Czech Republic (20:45, Wrocław)
12/6/11 Greece : Czech Republic (18:00, Wrocław)
12/6/11 Poland : Russia (18:00, Warszawa)
16/6/11 Czech Republic : Poland (20:45, Wrocław)
16/6/11 Greece : Russia (20:45, Warszawa)

An interesting group, this one; Russia should come top, though it will be a tight battle for the runners-up spot, as the other three nations are just as capable as each other of finishing in second place in the group. When push comes to shove, in spite of your correspondent's admittedly uninspiring record with regard to predictions, Greece may well just nudge it in front of hosts Poland and the Czech Republic. Euro 2004 all over again. More I dare not say.


9/6/11   Holland : Denmark (18:00, Kharkiv)
9/6/11   Germany : Portugal (20:45, Lviv)
13/6/11 Denmark : Portugal (18:00, Lviv)
13/6/11 Holland : Germany (20:45, Kharkiv)
17/6/11 Portugal : Holland (20:45, Kharkiv)
17/6/11 Denmark : Germany (20:45, Lviv)

Four very good teams in one group; only two can go through to the quarter-finals. It's Germany's to lose, with Holland to finish second, but only just. No room for either Portugal (to not have to witness so much of the heavy histrionics after the group stage would be a relief for a great many people - we'll probably still be stuck with the Dutch, however) or Denmark to progress, unfortunately; anyone who watched Germany's recent demolition of Holland would not bet against Der Mannschaft finishing top of the pile in what has already become known as this tournament's Group of Death.


10/6/11 Spain : Italy (18:00, Gdańsk)
10/6/11 IRELAND : Croatia (20:45, Poznań)
14/6/11 Italy : Croatia (18:00, Poznań)
14/6/11 Spain : IRELAND (20:45, Gdańsk)
18/6/11 Croatia : Spain (20:45, Gdańsk)
18/6/11 Italy : IRELAND (20:45, Poznań)

It's ten years since Ireland qualified for a major tournament, and acknowledgement of the quality of the opposition which the Boys in Green find themselves up against may well lead to quaking knees among the Irish support. On the positive side, if Garth "Beg The Question" Crooks can remain a roving reporter for the BBC's Football Focus programme, there is still hope that Ireland can get through to the second round of the European Championship for the first time ever, in only their second-ever appearance in the tournament's final stages and their first since 1988.

Irish fans will be looking at the game against Spain and thinking of revenge for the penalty shoot-out defeat to the current world champions back in the 2002 World Cup Finals. That may prove to be a bridge too far, but a positive result against Croatia might prove more of a possibility. Robbie Keane, Shay Given and Damien Duff will remember the agonising 1:0 defeat (courtesy of a winner scored against them in the fourth minute of injury-time) against the Croatians during the Euro 2000 qualifiers, and it is perhaps time for the Irish team to finally serve up that cold dish called revenge; it is certainly not past its sell-by date.

And then there is, of course, the prospect of Giovanni Trappatoni locking horns once again with his countrymen in what could be the decider in Poznań on 18/6/11. Italy never seem to be named among the absolute favourites to win a tournament, but they are the most dangerous of outsiders, and may well turn out to be so again this time. Discount Croatia at your peril, though; the manner of their sweeping-aside of Turkey in the play-offs should be enough for the warning-lights to be a-flashing for the rest of the teams in the group.

Spain should win the group, with (and it pains me to say so this time) Italy finishing as runners-up in what will be another tight group. Ireland and Croatia will probably be fighting it out for the wooden-spoon, though I sincerely hope I'm wrong; if Ireland can avoid defeat against the Spanish, though, things could get very interesting. A win against Croatia in their first fixture is imperative if they are to have any hope of making progress, however.


11/6/11 France : ENGLAND (18:00, Donetsk)
11/6/11 Ukraine : Sweden (20:45, Kiev)
15/6/11 Sweden : ENGLAND (18:00, Kiev)
15/6/11 Ukraine : France (20:45, Donetsk)
19/6/11 ENGLAND : Ukraine (20:45, Donetsk)
19/6/11 Sweden : France (20:45, Kiev)

England should qualify for the quarter-finals, if only because France are not the side they were a few years ago, Sweden are difficult to beat but not the most fearsome opposition, and while Ukraine will not figure among the favourites to lift the European Championship trophy, they will still prove dangerous opposition on home soil. England and Ukraine to go through.

21/6/11 1A : 2B (20:45, Warszawa - A)
22/6/11 1B : 2A (20:45, Gdańsk - B)
23/6/11 1C : 2D (20:45, Donetsk - C)
24/6/11 1D : 2C (20:45, Kiev - D)


27/6/11 A : C (20:45, Donetsk - 1)
28/6/11 B : D (20:45, Warszawa - 2)


1/7/11 1 : 2 (20:45, Kiev)

Who to stop the Germans from lifting the trophy in Kiev on 1/7/11? If Holland can escape from the group, they are certainly in with a shout, though Spain are, in the eyes of many, still the team to beat. Italy are certainly dangerous outsiders, but their ending the tournament as winners would be viewed as a long shot. As said earlier, it's Germany's to lose.

LIST OF STADIA (capacities are approximate):
DONETSK: Donbass Arena (51504)
GDAŃSK: PGE Arena (44000)
KHARKIV: Metallist Stadium (39000) 
KIEV: Olimpiysky NSC (68055)
LVIV: Lemberg/Arena Lviv (35000)
POZŃAŃ: Stadion Miejski (43000)
WARSZAWA: Stadion Narodowy (58145)
WROCŁAW: Stadion Miejski (42771)

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