After weeks of waiting, squad announcements, international friendlies and travel plans being sorted, Euro 2012 is finally here! The first day of this three week-long journey sees the co-hosts Poland in action against Greece and Russia take on Czech Republic, as a tight Group A will look to take shape. In a daily piece, Soccerlens will delve into the media to cover the latest news, views and incidents from the European Championships, which for Day One are as follows:
Dutch players suffer racist abuse at training ground
Unfortunately the major news and first incident to cover in Euro 2012 and this blog is an unsavoury incident involving racism and the Netherlands side. Bert van Marwijk’s squad invited 25,000 supporters to watch their training session on Thursday at the Miejski Stadium, home of Polish club Wisla Krakow.
As the players warmed up by doing laps of the pitch, a small contingent of onlookers are said to have made monkey chants on two separate occasions, with Oranje captain Mark van Bommel forced to move his side to the other end of the arena.
The PSV Eindhoven midfielder has confirmed that the Dutch team will contact Uefa over the incident, and has even threatened that his side may walk off the pitch in a match should the same happen in any of his sides fixtures at the tournament.
There have been grave fears that a minority of stupid and ignorant onlookers may blight the competition in Ukraine and Poland, with racism still a problem in the club game in eastern Europe. Let’s hope that this is a one-off and not a precedent for the next three weeks.
England Update: Terry fit, Cole ill, Defoe mourning
England have been handed a boost and a blow at the same time, as John Terry has trained with the Three Lions squad and is expected to be available for their game against France on Monday, but Ashley Cole is struggling with illness.
The former skipper had been suffering from a hamstring injury, but took part in the full 80 minutes session on Thursday and should be able to start in the heart of Roy Hodgson’s defence against Les Bleus according to The Guardian.
Cole was the only member of the England contingent not to attend an official reception with the mayor of Krakow on Thursday night, after falling ill with a stomach bug.
Finally, Jermain Defoe has been dealt the sad news that his father Jimmy has passed away after a long battle against cancer. The Tottenham striker has returned home but will return in due course. The FA have confirmed that no replacement will be called up.
Poland look to Dortmund stars for inspiration
Poland will have a full stadium of supporters praying for an opening victory over Greece tonight, but Franciszek Smuda’s men have not played any competitive games in a number of years due to being hosts of the tournament. There is however cause for optimism as the Poles have recorded draws against Germany and Portugal in recent friendlies an also beaten some of the European lesser lights.
Much will depend on Borussia Dortmund trio Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski if the home team are to escape Group A and excel. Lewandowski in particular has caught the eye in the Bundesliga; The Guardian have an in-depth look at the hosts and their stars from Signal Iduna Park in the build up to kick off.
Ireland back training after day off
The Republic of Ireland resumed team training on Thursday after a day off on Wednesday. Giovanni Trapattoni was convinced by his senior players to allow a day of rest in midweek, as some of the squad spoke of fears of burnout after a long hard season.
Midfielder Keith Andrews has moved to downplay any rumours of tension in the camp, and admitted to enjoying having a day taking in the sights.
“It’s been well documented that we had a day off on Wednesday. I think it was needed,” The Telegraph quotes him as saying.
“We have an itinerary and it was pencilled in as a day’s training, but the lads spoke to the manager and came to the conclusion that a day off would be best for all concerned.
“It was just as simple as that, really. We’ve been training a lot, with two games in there, so it really lifted the lads.
“It was nice to literally do nothing, have a walk around the town and sample the atmosphere.”
The next Paul the Psychic Octopus?
After the well-publicised success of Paul the Psychic octopus in predicting the winners of fixtures in the 2010 World Cup, animals across the continent are being tested to find his successor. Otters, elephants, ferrets and many other of nature’s creatures are getting involved in the prediction process, as listed in an excellent picture gallery by The Telegraph.
Group A Preview
- Spain remain the team to beat in Ukraine and Poland
- Thiago Motta backs Mario Balotelli to star for Italy this summer
- Germany’s versatile captain Phillipp Lahm will play left-back against Portugal
- A picture history of England’s track record at the Euros
- Russia coach Dick Advocaat is wary of a dangerous Czech Republic
- Stewart Downing on the defensive
Euro 2012 on Soccerlens
- Latest FIFA rankings for the 16 Euro 2012 teams.
- All 32 Euro 2012 shirts (home and away).
- A collection of Euro 2012 posters courtesy of ESPN.
- England’s biggest problem going into the Euros. It’s not racism.
- The definitive Euro 2012 infographic – key facts, stats, history and tournament details.
- All Euro 2012 fixtures in one place.
- The Euro 2012 TV Schedule – for UK and US viewers.
- A guide to Euro 2012 stadiums and host cities.
Enjoy the first day of Euro 2012, lets hope for two exciting games and tune in tomorrow as the ‘Group of Death’ kicks off.