Draw sets up heavyweight contestsSunday 2 December 2007
Former winners the Netherlands, Italy and France will meet in Group C of UEFA EURO 2008™, after a finals draw at the Culture and Convention Centre in Lucerne which served up a number of mouthwatering contests, notably co-hosts Austria against neighbours Germany in Group B.
France and Italy are all-too familiar rivals having faced off the 2006 FIFA World Cup final, a match won by the Azzurri, and also in qualifying for these finals. Romania, who finished ahead of the Netherlands on the road to Austria and Switzerland, complete the most testing of the groups. Meanwhile, Austria and Germany, the three-time winners, were drawn alongside Croatia and a Poland team who – like the Austrians – are making their debut at this level.
Switzerland will open the 13th UEFA European Championship on 7 June with a Group A game against the Czech Republic at St. Jakob-Park in Basel. Turkey and Portugal make up that section. Holders Greece find themselves in Group D alongside Sweden, Spain and Russia. Matches will be played at eight stadiums across as many cities in the two countries, with the tournament reaching a climax at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna on 30 June. Click here for the full UEFA EURO 2008™ match schedule.
The Culture and Convention Centre on the shore of Lake Lucerne was the setting for the draw, which was conducted by Swiss actress Melanie Winiger and Austrian television presenter Rainer Pariasek. The duo were joined on stage by representatives of the teams that have lifted the trophy previously: Valentin Ivanov (USSR, 1960), Luis Suárez (Spain, 1964), Dino Zoff (Italy, 1968), Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany, 1972), Anton Ondrus (Czechoslovakia, 1976), Bernard Dietz (West Germany, 1980), Michel Platini (France, 1984), Marco van Basten (Netherlands, 1988), Peter Schmeichel (Denmark, 1992), Jürgen Klinsmann (Germany, 1996), Didier Deschamps (France, 2000), and Theodoros Zagorakis (Greece, 2004). Eight of those players participated in making the draw together with UEFA's Gianni Infantino.
There were also performances from José Carreras, the Vienna Boys' Choir and Swiss alphorn player Eliana Burki among others. Threads of golden Christmas lights will illuminate the streets of Lucerne after dark today but already thoughts are turning to the stars and showdowns that will light up the long days of next summer.
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