The European Championship, generally called Euro 2012, kicks off Friday in Warsaw when co-host Poland plays Greece at the National Stadium. Ukraine also will be hosting games. The final will be played on July 1 in Kiev.
Defending champion Spain - which also won the 2010 World Cup - is the favorite among the 16 teams, especially with Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta controlling play. The Netherlands and Germany are also contenders.
Spain is training in the northern tip of Poland in the sleepy village of Gniewino, surrounded by greenery and far from any distractions. Yet it’s impossible to escape the slogans scattered around the training facilities. The messages reinforce the notion that Spain’s successes mean nothing going into Euro 2012; the team starts play Sunday against Italy.
“We’re conscious of the fact that it was inevitable on paper we’d be favorites,’’ defender Sergio Ramos said. “The key to our success has been to always start from zero and respect our opponents. Humility has been the base from which we have grown in these recent years.’’
Was it ill will?
A bad salad at a German hotel might have caused the food poisoning that sickened 10 Ukraine players before their final warm-up game against Turkey on Tuesday.
Team spokesman Oleksandr Glyvynskiy told the Associated Press there will be no further investigation into the cause of the food poisoning, despite coach Oleg Blochin suggesting on Ukrainian TV that “it may have been sabotage.’’
Glyvynskiy said the full 23-man squad was expected to be ready for Ukraine’s opening game against Sweden Monday.
US opens qualifying
The United States plays its opening qualifier for the 2014 World Cup on Friday night against Antigua and Barbuda in Tampa. The team canceled its public training session Thursday night because of inclement weather.
The US has never faced Antigua and Barbuda in any competition at the senior international level. Friday’s match is the Americans’ fourth of five games in an 18-day stretch. They tied Canada, 0-0, in an exhibition Sunday.
Villarreal coach dies
Villarreal coach Manuel Preciado died of a heart attack Thursday, one day after joining the team. He was 54.
Preciado had a one-year deal with the Spanish League team and was to be introduced Friday.