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Poland fans relieved by 'easy' Euro 2102 draw

02 Dec 2011 20:46:52

Poland fans relieved by 'easy' Euro 2102 draw

Poland fans who remember their long-lost golden age and a new generation who have never known success breathed a collective sigh of relief Friday after avoiding the traditional continental heavyweights in the Euro 2012 draw.

"On paper, this is an easy group. It looks like it's there for the taking," Stanislaw Skorupski, 54, told AFP after the Czech Republic, Greece and Russia were drawn to play co-hosts Poland.

"You never know on the day, of course, but this is certainly not the worst group of the lot. If we'd had Sweden, France, or Germany, that would have been a group of death."

"Skorupski said he had never forgotten Polish football's glory days of Olympic gold in 1972, silver in 1976, and third place the World Cup in 1974 and 1982.

"When me missed making it to the 1974 final, that hurt," he said.

Skorupski was one of several thousand supporters massed in front of a big screen in central Warsaw who erupted as the names of the White and Reds' adversaries were revealed in the draw broadcast live from Kiev, capital of Poland's Euro 2012 co-host Ukraine.

The Czech Republic -- who won a berth via the playoffs -- saw broad cheers.

Then, when Greece was pulled out of the bowl, the crowd went wild. The surprise 2004 European champions were seen as one of the weaker options in the pool.

Finally, the name of Russia brought a wave of relief that the hosts had avoided Germany, who Poland have never beaten.

Poland will kick off the tournament against the Greeks at Warsaw's new National Stadium on June 8 before facing Russia in the same ground on June 12.

They wrap up their group against the Czechs on June 16 in the southwestern city of Wroclaw.

"In every tournament, chance can smile on the hosts," said Skorupski.

Poland have failed to flourish over the past two decades, with solid qualifying campaigns for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and Euro 2008, ending in lacklustre tournament performances.

The next generation of fans have high hopes.

"This is a really good group. It's not an easy group, but it looks OK," said Damian Borunski, 15.

Speaking in Kiev, Poland coach Franciszek Smuda was also happy with the draw but moved to play down expectations of an easy ride.

"This isn't a group of death, but all the same we'll have to make an effort if we want to clear that hurdle," he said.

"Sometimes it's actually easier to get through a tough group. We need to avoid euphoria. We need to stay concentrated," he added.

As hosts, neither Poland nor Ukraine had to qualify for Euro 2012.

The performances of Smuda's squad have been erratic, leading to criticism of his tactics.

Ex-Poland, Liverpool and Real Madrid goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek put it bluntly: "If we don't clear this group, we're rubbish".


AFP

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