England prove popular opponents ahead of Euro 2012 draw

 

Italian duo Fabio Capello and Giovanni Trapattoni fly into Kiev tomorrow to discover their Euro 2012 fate, with England apparently the opponent of choice for continental Europe.

Following the declaration of striker Ola Toivonen that he would like to find England in Sweden's group for next year's finals in Poland and Ukraine, a more familiar name has now said much the same thing.

Vladimir Smicer is better known for being part of Liverpool's Champions League miracle in Istanbul six years ago. Now he is the Czech Republic's general manager.

"I would like to have Holland, England and Sweden in our group," Smicer said.

A similar sentiment was expressed by coach Michal Bilek, who also went for Poland and Greece.

England feel they have progressed significantly since the last World Cup, especially now Capello has blooded so many youngsters.

And the England boss can only hope any teams wanting to face his side are made to regret it.

After all, how the draw unfolds in the ornate 'Palace of the Arts' is of critical importance to Capello.

Even though the Football Association's director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking today rather talked around the idea of Capello staying in his job beyond next summer - when the 65-year-old's present £6million-a-year contract expires - it seems almost certain to be his swansong.

And there is no way he would want such a fine career to be tarnished by the stain of two major international tournaments ending in the kind of shambolic disappointment he experienced in South Africa.

Whoever they face, England will be well prepared, but some opponents are significantly more preferable to others.

With England booked into a beautiful city-centre location in Krakow and the Republic likely to base themselves in Poland as well, Capello and Trapattoni would ideally like to end up in Group A for two reasons.

Firstly, co-hosts Poland, whose UEFA ranking of 28 is the lowest of all 16 teams competing, will be in Group A.

Secondly, the travelling involved is ideal. The combined distance from Krakow to the two allocated venues - Warsaw and Wroclaw - is 330 miles, compared to almost 1100 in Group D, which will be played in Kiev and Donetsk and feature the other co-hosts, Ukraine.

If Portugal, who knocked England out of Euro 2004 and the World Cup two years later on penalties, are the team to miss in Pot Three, Sweden are the lowest ranked of the four sides and their amazing run of games without defeat to England came to an end at Wembley last month.

However, Greece have managed just two draws in nine previous meetings with England and, despite fine form in qualifying, appear to be the opponent of choice, especially as the other member of the quartet, Croatia, have obvious form for causing England problems.

Although they might quite like the battle of wills, neither Capello nor Trapattoni should relish England and the Republic of Ireland being paired together.

History suggests such confrontations tend to become sterile wars of attrition, which does not bring the best out of either nation.

Far better to tackle Denmark, whom England defeated in Copenhagen at the start of the year, or the Czech Republic.

Not that Trapattoni will be admitting it, even by accident.

"We have respect for the other countries, bigger countries, but I have always said we must also think we have the possibility to beat them," he said.

"We have shown that we can play well against bigger countries; against France, Italy, Russia, also Brazil and Argentina.

"We can not only dream, we can believe we can play against bigger teams.

"Two years ago, we had something that was not 100% ready. Now we can have confidence."

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?