With just two days remaining until the 2012 European Championships kick-off in Poland and Ukraine, the final round of pre-tournament friendlies have taken place.
Host nation, Poland, gave themselves a morale boosting final friendly against minnows Andorra on Saturday evening, and duly signed off with a 4-0 win in Warsaw. The previous night, the Czech Republic went down 2-1 to Hungary, while Russia ended their build up to the tournament with an impressive 3-0 win over fellow finalists Italy, Roman Shirokov scoring twice. Greece completed their programme of friendlies on the Thursday, central defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos scoring in their 1-0 win against Armenia.
On Saturday night, Denmark signed off on their preparations with a 2-0 win over Australia, while Group rivals Portugal faltered in a 3-1 defeat to Turkey. On the same night the Netherlands beat Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland 6-0, Ibrahim Afellay and Robin van Persie both scoring twice. Germany had completed their build up on the Thursday with a 2-0 win over Israel, Mario Gomez and Andre Scurrle getting the goals.
Italy suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat to Russia on Friday night, adding fuel to the suspicions that their squad are not reacting well to the betting scandal that threatens to upset their tournament. Croatia played out a 1-1 draw with Norway the following night, Eduardo scoring their goal, while Spain struggled to a 1-0 win over China on Sunday, David Silva scoring a late winner for La Roja. The Republic of Ireland waited until Monday to play their final warm up game, a 0-0 draw against Hungary.
England played their final friendly against Belgium on Saturday when the merits of a 1-0 win, thanks to Danny Welbeck’s well taken goal, were countered by the loss of central defender Gary Cahill with a fractured jaw. The other Group D sides played their final warm up games on Tuesday. Sweden beat Serbia 2-1, Ola Toivonen and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring their goals, and France ran out comfortable 4-0 winners over Estonia, Karim Benzema scoring twice. Co-hosts Ukraine, however, were beaten 2-0 by Turkey in a game that will not have cheered their supporters just three nights before the start of the Championships.
Simon O'Gorman began reporting for Extratime in 2010. He remembers Milltown and Flower Lodge and, back in the mists of time, saw Diego Maradona play at Lansdowne Road. He now lives in Co Kildare and reports on Shamrock Rovers among others. Simon can be contacted at email@example.com