Euro 2012 Kicks-Off in Poland and Ukraine
Football fans across Europe are bursting with excitement, as Euro 2012 starts today. The international tournament is being held in Poland and Ukraine, and it is the former who will kick things off against Greece in Warsaw at 7.45pm (GMT) this evening.
The tournament starts with four groups of four teams, and there are some tasty looking groups. World champions and current holders of the European cup, Spain, are in the same group as Italy, whilst other favourites Germany and the Netherlands have been placed in a group alongside Portugal. After the teams have all played each other, two teams from each group will go through to the quarter-finals, when the straight knock-out part of the tournament begins.
Most people have one of Spain, Netherlands or Germany to win the tournament, though France and Italy are sure to provide strong competition. However, as Greece showed at Euro 2004, there is always room for a major upset at the Euros.
The Host Nations
Poland and Ukraine are hosting an international football tournament for the first time and have been preparing for five years. Six brand new stadiums have been built, the countries' infrastructure improved and transport links developed. Roughly half of the games will be played in Poland and the other half in Ukraine.
Though the host nations are some of the weakest teams in the tournament, they are sure to put up a fight in front of their own fans, and may end up surprising a few of the bigger teams that face them. Poland in particular look to have a relatively weak group (Greece, Russia and Czech Republic) and will be hoping to at least reach the quarter-finals.
No Hope for England?
For the first time in decades, there is almost no hope or expectation for England to do well. Whilst usually most England fans will predict their team to at least get to the semi-finals in major tournaments, years of disappointment and a poor squad of players means many fans don't even expect them to get out of their group.
England's preparations have also been chaotic to say the least. After the old manager Fabio Capello quit in February, the new man- Roy Hodgson, wasn't chosen until a month ago and has therefore had very little time to choose his team and train his players. What's more, the squad he did choose has since been decimated by injuries to several key players. A race-row has also erupted between England defenders John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, which is far too complicated to go into here (Google it if you're interested), but it's safe to say England haven't had the best preparation.
England's group includes a strong French team, the co-hosts Ukraine and our bogey team Sweden, so it will certainly be a struggle just to progress to the quarters. However, whatever the outcome for England, there is sure to be joy somewhere in Europe in three weeks time. Meanwhile, sit and back and enjoy a tournament that only comes around once every four years.