Fine-tuning, bag-packing as Euro loomsAgence France-Presse . Warsaw
With the tournament curtain-raiser just five days away, the 16 teams competing in Euro 2012 were on Monday fine-tuning their preparations or packing their bags to head to co-hosts Poland and Ukraine.
Group A teams Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia and Greece were already at their base camps, with the co-hosts due to take on the Greeks in the capital Warsaw and Russia set to play the Czechs in the southwestern city of Wroclaw on Friday.
Denmark and Germany arrived on Monday and were followed later by their Group B opponents the Netherlands and Portugal.
Croatia and Italy are both expected to arrive in Poland on Tuesday.
Greece jetted in to Warsaw on Sunday, with coach Fernando Santos warning they will be no pushovers, as they seek to repeat their victory at Euro 2004 and lift an ailing nation hit by financial and political paralysis.
‘The players deserve to be in the Euro competition and they give me confidence that we can please the Greek people,’ Greek media quoted Santos as saying on Monday.
‘I know we will show will and desire. It will be very difficult for any opposing team to beat us. Nobody is very much better than us.’
Team captain Giorgos Karagounis said all the players were aware that they needed to put a smile back on people’s faces at home.
‘We want to give joy to the Greeks. We will do our best, without stress and pressure, and hopefully bring back beautiful memories,’ he was quoted as saying.
In Group B, Denmark -- European champions in 1992 after being called up as last-minute replacements for civil war-torn Yugoslavia -- headed straight for their base in the seaside resort of Kolobrzeg, northwest Poland.
Morten Olsen’s side, 2-0 winners against Australia at the weekend, have been drawn in the so-called ‘Group of Death’ against the Netherlands, Germany and Portugal.
Germany, gunning for a fourth European crown, arrived in the Baltic port of Gdansk, with key midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger given a clean bill of health and coach Joachim Low in confident mood.
‘The longing for a title is as great as ever in all of us. We will do everything to win it,’ said Low before his team arrived at their secluded five-star hotel.
The Germans have had minor set backs in their final preparations after a largely second-string team suffered a shock 5-3 defeat to Switzerland at the end of May and worries over a calf strain suffered by midfield star Schweinsteiger.
The 27-year-old was injured a fortnight ago when Bayern Munich lost the Champions League final to Chelsea.
But German team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt told Munich-based newspaper TZ that he has ‘no problems, no more pain’, adding that he was likely to be fully fit for the first match against Portugal in the Ukrainian city of Lviv on Saturday.
They look likely to overcome Portugal, who were beaten 3-1 in Lisbon by Turkey on Saturday, hitting morale and supporters’ hopes of reaching the quarter finals.
In other groups, the holders and favourites Spain, 1-0 victors over China in a friendly in Seville last weekend, were expected in the southern Polish city of Krakow on Tuesday.
They take on Italy -- hammered 3-0 by Russia on Friday and hit by a matchfixing scandal back at home -- the Republic of Ireland and Croatia in Group C.
Juventus central defender Andrea Barzagli is a major doubt, however, after tearing his left calf muscle, according to the team doctor, who estimated that he will be out for nearly three weeks.
Group D favourites France play their final warm-up match against Estonia on Tuesday, while England have suffered a fresh injury blow after defender Gary Cahill broke his jaw in the 1-0 friendly win against Belgium on Saturday.
England coach Roy Hodgson, already without the injured Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry, has picked Liverpool rookie Martin Kelly as Cahill’s replacement over veteran Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, whose agent blasted the move.
UEFA, meanwhile, said that some 10,000 tickets for Euro 2012 remain unsold for matches in Ukraine, with figures showing there are still seats for fixtures such as England’s opener against France in Donetsk on June 11.
High accommodation prices and transport headaches in Ukraine have been blamed for a fall in the number of England fans but UEFA said there was no cause for concern, with about 99 percent of the 1.4 million tickets on sale overall already gone.
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