Friday, 8 June 2012

Euro kick-off this evening

Right, after next to no interest in this tournament I am, all of a sudden, really looking forward to it. The first two matches are played this evening and then we have two a day for the next sixteen days as the first round of group matches are completed and we slim down to the last eight for the quarters. All the matches are on BBC or ITV and let's hope for an uplifting competition, some sparkling football and some new names thrust into the consciousness. Us Addicks should get a chance to see new signing Keith Andrews in action. It should help fill the void until the Olympics.

I will be following England and the Republic of Ireland, although I don't expect either to progress. Spain and Germany look favourites but this is a competition that often throws up surprises - Denmark and Greece immediately spring to mind.

Given the current Euro-gloom and the ongoing negativity about the venues, especially the Ukraine, you do have to wonder if the tournament will be spoilt off-the-field and remembered for all the wrong reasons. Scots fans had an unusual (for us) and unpleasant experience in Kiev several years back when they were attacked en masse and many were beaten badly by several hundred hooligans whilst the local constabulary shrank back into the corners of the square. I am sure the policing will be markedly better this time but the Ukraine is still in something of a time-warp in terms of global attitudes and there will undoubtedly be bad news to report as our journos search for it. Even this morning the Dutch are complaining of racist chants and comments as they trained. 

With relatively few England fans making the trip, I wonder whether the Germans might enter the hooligan spotlight. Their bark has always been louder than their bite but their economy is relatively strong and Poland and the Ukraine are emotional locations for these fans. Perhaps it's better that the Germans are in Poland for the Group stages but I expect them to progress where they could make the trek across the Steppes in their Mercedes and BMW's.

Anyway, we should be focused on the football and this evening co-hosts Poland open up against a stingy Greece side and should edge it. Russia then face the Czech Republic which might be a livelier affair. Russia could be dark horses this time. Come on you Reds!

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