UEFA EURO 2012 begins in eight days and all 16 finalists are applying the finishing touches to their pre-tournament preparations. UEFA.com has reporters assigned to every team involved who will provide daily updates from the camp.
Czech Republic (Ondřej Zlámal, @UEFAcomOndrejZ)
Today marks 50 years since the opening game of Czechoslovakia’s run to the 1962 FIFA World Cup final and nine of the runners-up from that famous team will attend the Czech Republic’s final warm-up game against Hungary on Friday. They will bid the current generation a symbolic farewell ahead of their UEFA EURO 2012 campaign.
Meanwhile, the news from the camp still relates to the ongoing fitness concerns surrounding captain Tomáš Rosický, with team physiotherapist Pavel Kolář saying: “We cannot offer definite answers – it is not possible to say that Tomáš will play for certain. We will decide next week when an agreement between the coach and Tomáš must be reached.”
Croatia (Elvir Islamović, @UEFAcomElvirI)
Midfielder Niko Kranjčar says it is time to measure up as Croatia gear up for Saturday’s last warm-up match against Norway in Oslo. “It will show us how every player is looking and if we are keeping to the game plan … but the most important game comes on 10 June – we are all aware of that,” Kranjčar told Sportske novosti. He added: “I would by lying if I told you I don’t want to play. Every player here thinks they can bring something to the team, but we need to play as a team to achieve anything.”
Netherlands (Berend Scholten, @UEFAcomBerendS)
After losing their first friendly to Bulgaria on Saturday, the Oranje bounced back with a 2-0 win against Slovakia last night. The match started badly, though, when John Heitinga and Wilfred Bouma clashed heads, with the latter taken to hospital to be examined after the first half. Both players, however, have been cleared of any lasting damage. “I had a big bump above my eye after the first minute,” said Heitinga. “But I am happy with the victory , it is good for our confidence.”
Wesley Sneijder also went off with an ankle knock, but first impressions were that it did not seem serious. For Rafael van der Vaart, the injury to Sneijder was the chance to prove himself in the No10 position. He seized the opportunity with both hands, scoring once and hitting the woodwork. “Every minute I see as an opportunity,” he said. “The coach has always chosen Wesley in my position, so I have not played there a lot lately. When you start on the bench, you always hope to be given enough time to be able to prove yourself. Luckily that happened.”
Republic of Ireland (Garry Doyle, @UEFAcomGarryD)
Those who believe footballers are cynical, have obviously not met Stephen Kelly. The defender has rallied around the unfortunate Kevin Foley, who narrowly failed to make the cut for the 23-man-squad who will travel to Poland on Monday.
“Your heart goes out to Kevin,” said Kelly. “He’s been in the squad for so long and to miss out is very tough on him. You would be inhuman not to feel some sort of remorse about it. It was a credit to Kevin that he came back and played the second half (in Tuesday night’s game against a Tuscan XI). We’ve rallied around him and let him know that it’s not the end of things.”
In fact, it is just the start for an Irish team growing in confidence ahead of the Group C opener against Croatia on Sunday week. Unbeaten in 13 games, morale is remarkably high despite the ill fortune that has befallen Foley, the injured Keith Fahey and James McCarthy, who made himself unavailable due to his father’s illness.
“Stuff like this brings you closer together,” Kelly said, “because you kind of realise how fragile the whole thing is. We are a really, really close team and we all get on so well together.” Kelly and his team-mates resumed training today after Wednesday’s rest day. They travel to Budapest on Saturday ahead of Monday’s friendly with Hungary before moving on to their EURO base in Gdansk.
Italy (Richard Aikman, @UEFAcomRichardA)
The squad was in high spirits yesterday as the players posed for team photos at Coverciano with striker Fabio Borini adopting an unfamiliar shaven-headed look after a bet with AS Roma team-mate Daniele De Rossi that he would lose his locks should he make the final cut, so to speak. Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Giancarlo Abete also took the opportunity to announce the opening of the new ‘Casa Azzurri’ – Italy’s famous home from home at major football tournaments since 1998.
The 2012 building has been constructed in Krakow, where Italy will be based for the tournament, with journalists invited to attend the Azzurri press conferences (not to mention partake of the delicious Italian food on offer there) and Italy fans just as welcome to come and view the Italian products on offer from Italian sponsors. As for footballing matters, Giorgio Chiellini is expected to use Italy’s friendly against Russia in Zurich tomorrow to test his troublesome thigh.
Portugal (Andy Brassell, @UEFAcomAndyB)
Paulo Bento yesterday named his five ‘captains’ of Portugal, though there is no doubt Cristiano Ronaldo should wear the armband when the team open their UEFA EURO 2012 Group B campaign against Germany in nine days. There is, however a clear chain of succession should the Real Madrid CF forward be unavailable at any stage.
The experienced quartet of Bruno Alves, Raul Meireles, Nani and Pepe have been chosen not just to cover any absence, but to provide leadership and support. “These players were chosen because they’re experienced and know what’s best for the national team,” Ricardo Quaresma said. “I think they were good choices.” Pepe revealed his delight at being chosen. “I feel very proud at being one of the captains,” he told newspaper O Jogo. “Naturally I’m very happy, because Portugal have always had great captains. For me, it’s an honour.”
Poland (Alex O’Henley, @UEFAcomAlexO)
The Polish Football Association (PFA) has designated tomorrow Children’s Day (as 1 June is in Poland, with youngsters invited to watch the national team training at the Legia Warszawa Stadion from 17.00CET, hopefully creating a sea of white and red. “This is special day for children and we want to give them a gift,” said PFA press officer Agnieszka Olejkowska. “We want the national team to be close to them on this special day. Come and watch the best Polish players in action.”
Before then, the players will gather at their hotel in Warsaw this evening following two days’ rest. Some are expected to arrive later tonight, with Ludovic Obraniak due in at 21.40 and Eugen Polanksi and Sebastien Boenisch an hour later.
Spain (Graham Hunter, @UEFAcomGrahamH)
It is all suddenly about Fernando Torres again. The Chelsea FC striker opened the scoring in last night’s 4-1 win against South Korea, heading in his 27th goal for Spain. That takes him level with Fernando Morientes in fourth in Spain’s list of all-time scorers, behind Fernando Hierro (29), Raúl González (44) and the injured David Villa (46).
“Fernando is pretty euphoric right now,” Vicente del Bosque said of the man who this month lifted the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League and now profiles as starting striker for the defending European champions.
“I’d like to move clear and finish, at worst, behind Raúl and David, in the scoring list,” said Torres. “When you doubt your place and then, suddenly, you are involved it really reminds you about what you value and how good it is to be back with team-mates like these.”
England (Andy James, @UEFAcomAndyJ)
I managed to take a look at England’s home for the duration of their tournament, the prestigious Hotel Stary, on my first venture into Krakow city centre yesterday. Located in the Old Town and just a stone’s throw from the main square, the boutique abode is a far cry from the Three Lions’ remote base camp in Rustenburg at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
There will be no complaints of boredom between games with a multitude of cultural and culinary delights on their doorstep. The team will train at the recently redeveloped Hutnik Stadium, located a 20-minute drive east.
Ukraine (Boris Popov, @UEFAcomBorisP)
The everyday training routine of Ukraine has been flavoured by the visit of UEFA’s chief refereeing officer, Pierluigi Collina. Former AC Milan forward Andriy Shevchenko stepped in as an interpreter, a role he performed spotlessly.
Collina pinpointed that no mercy would be given to rule breakers and, for example, every strike with the elbow will mean a direct red card; the same goes for illegally-executed sliding tackles. After the seminar, the team applauded Collina before switching focus to preparing for tomorrow’s friendly against Austria in Innsbruck.
Sweden (Sujay Dutt, @UEFAcomSujayD)
“It was a Zlatan show,” said Emir Bajrami as he reflected on last night’s 3-2 friendly victory over Iceland. Zlatan Ibrahimović took centre stage in Gothenburg, relishing the free rein he was given in a deep-lying role. He broke the deadlock inside two minutes with a volley and his clever dribble and cross teed up Ola Toivonen to double the advantage. Former Sweden boss Lars Lagerbäck, now in charge of Iceland, was also impressed, saying that “Zlatan is extremely good at the moment.”
The Sweden squad will have more time to dwell on that performance over the next 24 hours as, following coach Erik Hamrén’s daily press conference at 10.00CET, they departed to their own corners of Sweden for some family time. They will reconvene in Stockholm on Saturday.
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