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It is three years since Poland and Ukraine were chosen to co-host UEFA EURO 2012 and, following that decision in Cardiff by the UEFA Executive Committee, the final tournament comes nearer on Sunday when the 53 member associations gather in Warsaw for the qualifying draw.
The eagerly awaited draw in the Polish capital represents the first step on the long road to the final tournament, which kicks off on 8 June 2012 with the final to be played in Kyiv on 1 July 2012. All eyes will be on the towering Palace of Culture and Science which stands in the heart of Warsaw. For one day, from 12.00CET on Sunday, it will also become the focus of European football as 51 national teams learn whom they will meet in the race to join Poland and Ukraine, automatic qualifiers, at UEFA EURO 2012.
The tower was opened in 1957 and was once the tallest building in Europe. It is a reference point for the city and dates from the same era as the UEFA European Championship itself. The competition's first game took place in Moscow on 29 September 1958, with the Soviet Union beating Hungary 3-1. That Soviet side would become the first to lift the Henri Delaunay Cup two years later; the 50th anniversary of that first final will be marked ahead of Sunday's draw.
While the past is feted, the emphasis is very much on the future. Polish and Ukrainian flags flank the UEFA EURO 2012 logo on Warsaw's streets, with welcome signs in both languages greeting coaches and delegates from across the continent as anticipation rises before Sunday's big event. More than 30 broadcast partners will screen the draw live around the world, with UEFA.com also streaming the 45-minute ceremony live to a global audience.
For the moment, thick snow lines Warsaw's streets and the Polish top flight, the Ekstraklasa, enjoys its winter hibernation as freezing temperatures descend on the city. The summer sun of two years' time may feel a long way off, but it will be seem a whole lot closer come Sunday when Europe's national sides discover their fate.
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