Euro 2012 group stages: Lviv hits German jackpot!
With all the new stadia built, and the qualifying stages concluded, the next piece of Euro 2012 news that football fans had been waiting for was the draw. On Friday 2 December in Kyiv, the fate of the last 16 teams was decided. After four years of preparation, having been awarded the honour of co-hosting the tournament with Poland back in April 2007, Ukrainians finally discovered which teams would be playing in their country, and which countries their national team would face in the group stage. And Leopolitans watched the draw with great interest to find out which matches would be hosted in their new crown jewel – Arena Lviv. The final four groups look like this:
Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic (matches to be played in Warsaw and Wroclaw)
Holland, Denmark, Germany, Portugal (matches to be played in Lviv and Kharkiv)
Spain, Ireland, Italy, Croatia (matches to be played in Gdansk and Poznan)
Ukraine, France, Sweden, England (matches to be played in Kyiv and Donetsk)
The Main Event – Presidents, Pop Stars and Cossack Dancers
The Palace of Arts, Kyiv, was the venue for the eagerly anticipated draw, and the event was a glamorous occasion, full of entertainment, special guests, and a who’s who of international football. The build-up saw an impressive performance by a Ukrainian Cossack dance troupe, Ukraine’s very own pop princess Jamala, singing her tournament song ‘Goal’, President of Ukraine Victor Yanukovych (who in his speech, even managed a few words in English ‘welcome in Ukraine’) as well as Uefa President Michel Platini, and a host of household footballing names – Zidane, Van Basten, Schmeichel, to name just a few of the heroes in attendance.
What Does the Draw Mean for Lviv?
Leopolitans can be pleased with the draw, which means a number of key matches will be played at Arena Lviv, determining who will progress from Group B - the tournament’s so-called ‘Group of Death’. The city’s first match will be Germany vs Portugal (Saturday 9 June, 20.45), followed by Denmark vs Portugal (Wednesday 14 June, 18.00) and finally Denmark vs Germany (Sunday 17 June, 20.45). Lviv businesses can look forward to huge number of big-spending German fans, known for their love of food and beer. The Danes will undoubtedly bring their unique Scandinavian party spirit to the city, and the Portuguese fans will add an Iberian flavour to the multicultural mix of fans that will descend on Lviv in their thousands next summer. All of these countries have a reputation for good behaviour abroad, so city authorities and local residents will be happy about that too. With the finishing touches being added to Lviv Airport, and other final improvements being made to the city’s infrastructure, everything looks set for Euro 2012 to be big success for Lviv, putting the city and all it has to offer in the spotlight, and hopefully putting it firmly on the map too.
Overall, the results of the draw for Ukraine could have been worse, and could have been better. They avoided the ‘Group of Death’, and also the Spanish and Italians in Group B (the ‘Group of Debt’!). By far the weakest group is Group A (Poland, Russia, Greece and Czech Republic) but it is also the least interesting. Ukraine are in Group D and will face Sweden in Kyiv (Monday 11 June, 20.45), followed by France in Donetsk (Friday 15 June, 18.00) and their final group game will be against England in Donetsk (Tuesday 19 June, 20.45). Qualification for the knock-out stages is a real possibility for Ukraine, especially if the team’s recent improvement in form continues, and they take full advantage of home support in the stunning new Olympic Stadium in Kyiv and the vast Donbas Arena in Donetsk. All of their opponents are prone to inconsistent performances in big tournaments. If the Ukrainian camp can prepare well, focus on opposition weaknesses, and of course, have a little bit of luck, progressing to the next round is a realistic aim. Perhaps their stiffest opposition will come from England – a team of stars with huge potential, but who have a tendency to underachieve. Drawn in the same qualifying group for the 2010 World Cup, Ukraine lost 2-1 at Wembley, but managed a 1-0 victory in their home fixture. The match in Donetsk looks set to be a memorable and highly-competitive one. The tournament kicks off in Warsaw on Friday 8 June where Poland will face Greece. This will mark the end of four years of preparation, anticipation and expectation, and the beginning of an international festival of football, the likes of which Ukraine has never before seen. As Lviv continues tirelessly to get the city ready for Euro 2012, and as fans from all countries continue to analyse the draw, and speculate about the success of their beloved national teams, let us remember a poignant quote from former Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly – “Football is not a matter of life and death. It’s more important than that.”