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EURO friendlies: countdown to kick-off

Published: Tuesday 28 February 2012, 19.30CET
All 16 UEFA EURO 2012 finalists are in action on Wednesday as they up their preparations for the summer.'s team of reporters has the latest from across the continent.

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Published: Tuesday 28 February 2012, 19.30CET

EURO friendlies: countdown to kick-off

All 16 UEFA EURO 2012 finalists are in action on Wednesday as they up their preparations for the summer.'s team of reporters has the latest from across the continent.'s team of reporters and correspondents provide you with build-up to Wednesday's international friendlies involving UEFA EURO 2012 finalists.

All times CET.

Tuesday 19.30, newsdesk
That's all for today but stay with where we will have features on Italy, the Netherlands, England, Portugal and Sweden coming up tonight – and our live blog will be back tomorrow with the build-up to all the games and the latest direct from the stadiums throughout the matches in the evening.

Tuesday 19.07, Evgeni Polyakov, Copenhagen
It is unexpectedly warm in the Danish capital, 10C as Russia train at the Parkenstadion. The forecast for tomorrow is a February record of 14C, which could be up to 20C under the closed stadium roof. Roman Pavlyuchenko missed training due to a cold and his participation tomorrow is in question.

Tuesday 18.53, Matthew Spiro, Bremen
Hugo Lloris has just finished his first grilling in front of the media since officially being appointed France captain – and the good news is the softly-spoken Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper has got through it unscathed! Lloris certainly doesn't look too shaken as he makes his way out of the press conference room and towards the Weserstadion dressing room to prepare for tonight's training session.

The 25-year-old is a remarkably quiet and retiring figure in public, and some may be surprised by Laurent Blanc's decision to give him the armband for tomorrow's game against Germany and also for this summer's finals. Yet there is more to Lloris than first meets the eye. Not only is he one of France's best players but he has a steely side as well and was quick to shoot down suggestions he is too introverted to captain his country.

"You don't know what I'm like in the dressing room," Lloris told the journalists that had packed out the conference room. "I have my own personality. Whether I'm captain or not, I'm not afraid to speak out. I have done so in the past and will do so again if the situation demands it."

Tuesday 18.50, Richard Aikman, Genoa
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has revealed the XI that will start against the United States on Wednesday night, saying: "I already know my first XI in my head but it's important to weight up all the alternatives. There are other players I want to have a look at." Among those players is a defender plying his trade with Torino FC in Serie B, Angelo Ogbonna, and Juventus striker Alessandro Matri.

Italy: Buffon; Maggio, Criscito, Ogbonna, Barzagli; Marchisio; Thiago Motta, Nocerino, Pirlo; Giovinco; Matri

Tuesday 18.40, Hugo Pietra in Warsaw
The weather is snowy but Portugal are looking to warm things up as they prepare for the inaugural match at National Stadium Warsaw against the co-hosts Poland. The away team are training at the moment following Poland's training session and there are plenty of journalists waiting for the press conference with Portugal coach Paulo Bento.

Tuesday 18.30, Elvir Islamović in Zagreb
Croatia's last training session before tomorrow's match went smoothly and concluded with a game between the squad's 'old' and 'young' players. Experience proved to be better than youthful endeavour on this occasion as the 'old' guys won 3-1.

Tuesday 18.20, Matthew Spiro, Bremen
Laurent Blanc has confirmed that Hugo Lloris will captain France against Germany tomorrow and at this summer's finals. Blanc had previously revealed the armband would go to one of Lloris, Philippe Mexès and Eric Abidal, and he just announced his decision to the assembled media at the Weserstadion. "He gives us more guarantees in this role," Blanc said of the Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper. "He won't be the only captain on the pitch but he is the man who will wear the armband. He is someone who seems to be in control and has lucidity which is among the most important factors in this role."

Tuesday 18.22, Sujay Dutt in Zagreb
The Sheraton Hotel is Sweden's base for the next few days and where captain Zlatan Ibrahimović addressed the media earlier. One of many Croatian reporters in attendance asked the AC Milan striker how he feels about his Balkan roots. "I was raised by a mother from Croatia and a father from Bosnia and Herzegovina," he replied. "I speak the language at home and I have the mentality, but I'm 100% Swedish."

Tuesday 18.11, Graham Hunter in Malaga
As befitting the UEFA European Championship holders, Spain rolled into town amidst an old fashioned fanfare of colour, elegance and high-pitched screaming. Yet this was an arrival on the peninsula's southern coast which also showed the generosity of Vicente del Bosque's players. Having trained at the national centre in Madrid on Monday, La Roja took the high-speed train down to Malaga and arrived at the main station, which is attached to their hotel − indeed, there is a VIP passageway which leads directly into the four-star venue.

However, the players opted to walk up and enter through the front door so that the huge, boistrous crowd waiting for them wouldn't be disappointed − especially on a public holiday, Andalusia Day. The reward − sheer delight, a surge in the level of volume and a blizzard of confetti for the visiting heroes.

Tuesday 17.54, Piotr Koźmiński at the National Stadium Warsaw
Heavy snow welcomed the Poland team for their first, historic training session here at the National Stadium. The temperature in the capital may be hovering around the freezing mark but the squad remain in high spirits. "We are all are excited and can't wait for the first match here," said coach Franciszek Smuda at today's press conference.

"We still don't know whether Robert Lewandowski will play, but the chances are not high. If there is no improvement tomorrow, he will not feature − better to lose him for a while now than to put him at risk and lose him for the finals."

Wojciech Szczęsny may have said on Monday that his legs shake at the thought of facing Cristiano Ronaldo, but Smuda has complete faith in his goalkeeper. "Come on!" he said. "Wojciech did not say it seriously. He has played against great strikers and has never been scared. I can assure you he won't be scared on Wednesday."

Tuesday 17.46, Andy James at Wembley
England's injury problems continued when it was confirmed that Liverpool FC defender Glen Johnson has returned to his club this afternoon owing to a minor problem picked up in training today. The 27-year-old, who celebrated League Cup glory at Wembley on Sunday, becomes the fifth player to withdraw from the squad after Wayne Rooney, Darren Bent, Tom Cleverley and Kyle Walker, prompting interim manager Stuart Pearce to call up Manchester City FC's Joleon Lescott as cover.

Tuesday 17.37, Thomas Mark in Copenhagen
When Thomas Sørensen faces Russia at Parken Stadium tomorrow he will enter the select club of players who have made 100 or more international appearances. The Stoke City FC goalkeeper will be the fourth Dane to reach three figures after former No1 Peter Schmeichel (136 caps), Michael Laudrup (104) and current Denmark coach Morten Olsen (102).

Sørensen made his debut in 1999, replacing the injured Schmeichel 19 minutes into a UEFA European Championship qualifier against Israel. He has remained part of the squad ever since, succeeding Schmeichel as first choice in 2001 when the former Manchester United FC man retired. "I'm so proud," said Sørensen. "There's nothing greater than representing your country. I never would have guessed that I would reach 100 games."

Tuesday 17.30, Konstantin Patkevich in Tel-Aviv
Ukraine arrived in Israel earlier this afternoon and have checked into their hotel, which has a beautiful view of the Mediterranean. The players were met by head coach Oleh Blokhin and his assistant Andrei Bal, who have been in Tel-Aviv since the weekend.

Players from FC Dynamo Kyiv did not need to join their international team-mates on the three-hour flight as the Ukrainian league leaders have been at a training camp in Greece. Yaroslav Rakitsky, meanwhile, will not feature in the co-hosts' first match of the year after remaining with his club, FC Shakhtar Donetsk, because of injury.

Tuesday 17.17, Aidan Fitzmaurice in Dublin
As expected at the Ireland press conference, Giovanni Trapattoni named the XI which will start against the Czech Republic tomorrow. The manager has made three changes from the side which beat Estonia 4-0 in the first leg of the UEFA EURO 2012 play-off, with Stephen Kelly and Richard Dunne injured and Shane Long preferred to Jonathan Walters up front.

Tuesday 17.15, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou in Athens
After an uneventful flight but a somewhat adventurous landing because of a strong crosswind, the Greece squad arrived in Heraklion. Before heading to the Pankritio Stadium for tonight's training session, Fernando Santos's charges are off to a sponsor's event in Crete, where they will also sign autographs for fans.

The last time the national team were in Heraklion was for a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier, which they won 2-1 against Israel. The Cretan climate has long seemed to agree with the side, who have won eight and drawn one − 3-3 against Russia 11 years ago − there. That match had marked the international debut of Angelos Charisteas, who became a national hero with his winning goal in the UEFA EURO 2004 final.

Tuesday 16.58, Sujay Dutt in Zagreb
Sweden centre-back Daniel Majstorovic is likely to miss EURO after suffering a serious knee injury at the end of today's training session in the Croatian capital. Speaking at the press conference, coach Erik Hamrén said: "There was a minute left of play. Anders Svensson fell in a tussle with Zlatan [Ibrahimović] and at the same time Daniel went for the ball with his leg outstretched. Anders fell on Daniel's leg. I didn't think it was so serious because Daniel didn't say a word, but apparently it was." Scans confirmed that the 34-year-old Celtic FC defender had torn knee ligaments.

Tuesday 16.55, Richard Aikman in Genoa
It's so warm and sunny here that office workers and students have made a beeline for the beach and the cafes and restaurants of the Porto Antico. It seems surreal that we are still in February with so many locals sunbathing on the pebbles, shooting the breeze and devouring ice-creams by the score. We will soon see whether or not the mood is similarly relaxed in the Italy camp, where Cesare Prandelli is to field questions from the press at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris at 18.00.

Tuesday 16.50, Ondřej Zlámal in Prague
On the eve of their trip to Ireland, the Czech Republic trained in Juliska before the national player of the year ceremony later that evening. Petr Čech won the award for the fifth time and fourth in succession, equalling the record of 1976 UEFA European Championship winner Ivo Viktor.

"Last year may have been one of the most successful ones in my career," said Chelsea FC goalkeeper Čech. "I was voted the best player at Chelsea, which was a very pleasant feeling. It also feels good to have achieved the same [feat] as the legendary Ivo Viktor." VfL Wolfsburg's Tomáš Jiráček finished second, Tomáš Rosický third.

Tuesday 16.42, Matthew Spiro in Bremen
At 23, Mesut Özil is too young to recall the classic matches of the 1980s between West Germany and France. At this afternoon's press conference, the Real Madrid CF playmaker dodged a question about the nations' rivalry with the sort of elegant, effortless swerve that supporters at the Santiago Bernabéu have become accustomed to seeing.

For Özil, France simply represents "a strong nation" with some "excellent players like my club-mate Karim Benzema". Yet for older generations, tomorrow's game at the Weserstadion will evoke some vivid memories; from the incredible extra-time goals scored by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Klaus Fischer that denied Michel Platini's France in the unforgettable 1982 FIFA World Cup semi-final in Sevilla, to the clinical 2-0 West German victory at the same stage in Guadalajara four years later.

The thought of playing Germany fills most French people with dread, although Les Bleus have secured one famous FIFA World Cup triumph over their European rivals, defeating West Germany 6-3 in Sweden in 1958, Just Fontaine scoring four. In fact, France have a fine record overall, winning ten and drawing seven of their 23 meetings with East, West and unified Germany, Most of those wins have come in friendlies, and Laurent Blanc's men will be hoping to add another to the list tomorrow.

Tuesday 16.33, Hugo Pietra in Warsaw
Pepe and Nani were also quizzed by on the eve of Portugal's friendly against UEFA EURO 2012 co-hosts Poland. Manchester United FC winger Nani said he is looking forward to contributing to a great tournament this summer, while the Real Madrid CF centre-back spoke of what an honour it is to be back in the national squad and to train with Cristiano Ronaldo every day.

Tuesday 16.21, Steffen Potter in Bremen
After being interviewed earlier by, Mesut Özil then took to the stage at Germany's final pre-match press conference and stated how happy he was to be back at the Weserstadion, where he played for two and a half years before joining Real Madrid CF in summer 2010. "I will use the time to meet many old friends again," he said. "I still know Tim Wiese from my time at Bremen. He is a very good goalkeeper and I'm very happy for him that he gets to play tomorrow [against France]."

Tuesday 16.08, Berend Scholten, Dutch office
The Netherlands will wear their new black away jersey for the first time at Wembley tomorrow. The recycled polyester shirt, fashioned from 13 PET plastic bottles, features a striking orange block that runs from the right shoulder to the chest. Emblazoned on the collar is 'Nieuwe Meesters' (New Masters), a reference to the creativity of 17th century Dutch painters Rembrandt and Vermeer and the talent of the current Oranje team.

Two of those new masters are wingers-cum-forwards Ola John (FC Twente) and Luciano Narsingh (sc Heerenveen), who lead the Eredivisie assist chart and could make their international debuts in London. Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk selected the duo "because of their good development and excellent final pass", adding their inclusion is "a signal".

Their presence will have been noted by Ryan Babel and Eljero Elia − both of whom were omitted − injured pair Derk Boerrigter and Ibrahim Afellay, and maybe even Arjen Robben. Fast, creative wingers are vital to Van Marwijk's system and so the Wembley encounter, one of the squad's last warm-up matches before UEFA EURO 2012, could be the stage when John and Narsingh cement their place in the coach's plans.

Tuesday 15.40, Andy James at Wembley
England goalkeeper Joe Hart insists the issue of the team captaincy is irrelevant to him as he focuses on preparing for the visit of the Netherlands tomorrow. "Whether you're captain or not is by the by," said the Manchester City FC No1. "I'm sure everyone is focusing on getting into the side."

The 24-year-old said he spoke "for anyone who's English and likes football in saying that captaining your country would be a great honour, but it's a long way off for myself with some big names already on the table". Asked whether he felt a goalkeeper could be a successful captain, Hart pointed to Spain's FIFA World Cup winning-skipper Iker Casillas as a prime example.

Tuesday 15.21, Paul Bryan in Madrid
Valencia CF striker Roberto Soldado will know he has a tremendous opportunity to convince coach Vicente del Bosque he is worthy of inclusion in the Spain squad for this summer's EURO. With Fernando Torres left out of the list for Wednesday's friendly against Venezuela in Malaga and Álvaro Negredo a late withdrawal due to an adductor injury, the Real Madrid CF youth product looks certain to receive some action at Estadio La Rosaleda.

"I was so keen to join up with the national team," said the 26-year-old. "I knew it was going to be very difficult to break into the squad but I've finally got my wish, and now that I'm here I hope to reach the right level and take advantage of this chance."

Soldado has scored 20 goals for Valencia this season − five of which came in the UEFA Champions League − and he knows he will have to continue in that vein in order to be considered for a place on the plane to Poland and Ukraine.

"I've netted a significant number of goals and I hope to register for the national team," said the forward, who won his last international cap in June 2007. "There are three months to go after Wednesday's game and I will need to score a lot in that time in order to be considered for the finals."

Tuesday 15.04, Aidan Fitzmaurice in Dublin
In Shay Given and Robbie Keane, the Republic of Ireland have two of the most experienced players in international football. Yet in the build-up to the friendly against the Czech Republic, most of the talk among Ireland supporters is about two uncapped players.

Having impressed in the Premier League this season, defender Shane Duffy (Everton FC) and winger James McClean (Sunderland AFC) are hoping to make the grade at international level and sneak into the squad for UEFA EURO 2012. What makes their emergence more intriguing is that the pair were born in Northern Ireland and both represented that country at youth level before switching allegiance to the Republic.

Giovanni Trapattoni is due to name his team to face the Czechs at his pre-match press conference and Irish fans are waiting to see if McClean, who only a year ago was playing for home-town club Derry City FC, can add an international cap to his glowing CV.

Tuesday 14.58, Piotr Koźmiński in Warsaw
Anticipation is growing in the Polish capital as fans follow the every move of Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. The Poland-Portugal friendly on Wednesday will be the first match to be staged at the new National Stadium Warsaw − where 55,000 fans, including Polish president Bronisław Komorowski − will be part of a sell-out crowd.

Poland will train in the arena for the first time today at 17.00. Half an hour earlier coach Franciszek Smuda will face the media. Portugal's session is scheduled for 18.00, with their media briefing to begin an hour later.

Tuesday 14.42, Sujay Dutt in Zagreb
The Swedish media focus ahead of Wednesday's friendly in Croatia has been on the possibility of on-loan Feyenoord striker John Guidetti making his senior international debut. An injury he sustained in training today, however, has put that prospect in jeopardy. "My foot got stuck in the turf and I twisted my hip," said the 19-year-old, in prolific form this season with 18 Eredivisie goals in 16 outings. "It hurt like hell." Daniel Majstorovic (knee) also required treatment during the session but, like Guidetti, was able to walk back to the changing area unaided.

Tuesday 14.37, Andy James at Wembley
The England squad appeared to be in good spirits during the first 15 minutes of today's training session on the 'hallowed turf'. Caretaker boss Stuart Pearce joined his charges in a light warm up, drawing inevitably favourable comparisons with former head coach Fabio Capello. The players then tested their reactions as part of a close-knit passing exercise before expanding into a larger area of the field as the media returned to the catacombs for the final pre-match press conference.

Pearce, who will only reveal his captain shortly before tomorrow's match against the Dutch, revealed he has thoroughly relished being in charge of the national side: "It's been enjoyable," he said. "The players have a lot of enthusiasm. The more experienced players dotted around the squad have the right mentality in wanting to help out the younger ones."

The 49-year-old former defender described tomorrow's fixture as "vital" with just three warm-up matches to go before England's first group game in Poland/Ukraine against France on 11 June. As for holding on to the role beyond this week, Pearce remained impartial. "If someone new walks through the door between now and the summer, I'll make sure I support them." He added that Capello had sent him a text wishing him well for the match.

Tuesday 14.30, Richard Aikman in Genoa
Where snow lay on the ground barely three weeks ago spring has now sprung here on the north-west coast of Italy. The boats are bobbing under cloudless skies on the shimmering marina ‒ an indication that summer will soon be upon us and that UEFA EURO 2012 is but three months away.

While much of the media attention remains on the 1-1 draw between AC Milan and Juventus, the Azzurri's preparations for Poland and Ukraine continue with a friendly against the United States. Carlos Bocanegra and Maurice Edu are definitely among the visiting party as they were enjoying Business Class luxury on my flight over from Gatwick, while some of us were crammed in a 'fun-size' middle seat in economy.

Tuesday 14.15, Sujay Dutt in Zagreb
Ahead of Sweden's Tuesday training, told Martin Olsson that the match against Croatia comes exactly 100 days before the start of UEFA EURO 2012. "A hundred days? I just know that it's sometime in June," said the Blackburn Rovers FC man. "But playing a EURO final tournament is something I've always dreamed of."

Olsson is one of several Sweden players in the team that reached the semi-finals of the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship. "Playing a EURO finals at home was awesome, but that was U21. This summer it's the seniors. We played England's Under-21s then, now we've got the senior side [this summer]. The players are different, the quality will be better."

Tuesday 13.45, Thomas Mark in Copenhagen
On Monday night the Denmark squad hit the studios with national pop stars Nik & Jay in order to record their official UEFA EURO 2012 song. The song will be played for the first time during the half-time break between Denmark and Russia on Wednesday. Those not attending the game will have to wait until later this spring to hear it.

Nik & Jay are one of the most successful bands in Denmark, with the duo having sold more than 400,000 records over the last ten years. The two singers have a big fan in Danish international Dennis Rommedahl, who in a match against Latvia in 2007 made a tribute to them when he celebrated a goal by revealing a t-shirt with the text "Boing-Boing" − the title of one of the band's biggest singles.

Tuesday 13.36, Piotr Koźmiński in Warsaw
Poland's leading striker, Robert Lewandowski, is doubtful for the visit of Portugal due to an injury sustained against Hannover 96 on Sunday. "I feel pain in my thigh muscle and I'm not sure whether I will play," said the 23-year-old, who scored twice in Borussia Dortmund's 3-1 weekend victory. "I think the doctors will make a decision on Tuesday."

Lewandowski, who has 16 Bundesliga goals to his name this season, did not train on Monday. His absence would be big blow for Poland and their supporters, who are hoping to see him go head to head with opposite number Cristiano Ronaldo.

Tuesday 13.13, Elvir Islamović in Zagreb
Slaven Bilić announced during today's press conference before Croatia's encounter with Sweden that GNK Dinamo Zagreb defender Domagoj Vida "suffered a knock in training but it's nothing serious − he should be ready for the match". The coach added: "I'm not afraid of injuries: after all, we're not going bungee jumping. We are preparing for an excellent match and we are ready to show our quality."

Eduardo, Mario Mandžukić and Darijo Srna took time out from their preparations yesterday to model the new Croatia away jersey. The blue shirt is 23% lighter than the previous version and features a new cooling system. Furthermore, each garment and pair of shorts is made from 13 recycled plastic bottles. "I'm feeling good in it," said Eduardo. "It's a very nice jersey and I'm sure our fans will like it, too."

Tuesday 12.52, Steffen Potter in Bremen
Germany assistant coach Hansi Flick revealed during the pre-match press conference a short while ago that SV Werder Bremen goalkeeper Tim Wiese will start on his home ground against France and that Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber will line up in central defence. Miroslav Klose, meanwhile, will captain the team in his role as the sole striker. "Tim Wiese is supposed to play 90 minutes," said Flick. "In front of his home crowd he now has the opportunity to finally register a win with the national team [in five previous appearances he has not tasted victory]."

Tuesday 12.25, Richard Aikman in Genoa
Italy were put through their paces behind closed doors this morning at Genoa CFC's Signorini training ground as Cesare Prandelli cast his eye over the forwards hoping to fill the void left by the absent Antonio Cassano, Giuseppe Rossi (long-term injury), Antonio Di Natale (toe), Mario Balotelli and Pablo Osvaldo.

AS Roma striker Fabio Borini has received a first call-up, earning praise from his Under-21 coach Ciro Ferrara. "Releasing Borini to the senior squad is really satisfying for me and for the other lads in my squad, who now know that if they do well for the U21s the door to the senior side is open to them."

The feeling among journalists I have spoken to is that Parma FC front man Sebastian Giovinco and Alessandro Matri will be the two to get the nod. Giovinco and Antonio Nocerino were among those modelling Italy's new away shirt yesterday − a white V-neck with a blue stripe across the middle, evocative of the Azzurri's 1974 FIFA World Cup strip. Hopefully, the new edition will bring them better luck: Italy did not proceed beyond the group stage in West Germany.

Tuesday 12.21, Andy James at Wembley
I have arrived at Wembley, where a depleted England are about to emerge for training ahead of tomorrow's high-profile encounter against the Netherlands.

Both The Times and The Daily Telegraph focus on the Three Lions' shortage of strikers following the withdrawals of Wayne Rooney and Darren Bent through illness and injury respectively. Young hopefuls Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge and the uncapped Fraizer Campbell will all be hoping to recommend themselves for a starting berth by impressing interim boss Stuart Pearce during today's session.

Midfielder Scott Parker received a boost yesterday when he was voted England Player of the Year 2011 by fans. The Tottenham Hotspur FC midfielder endured a stuttering start to his international career but, at 31, is now expected to be an integral part of the side which travels to UEFA EURO 2012.

Tuesday 12.03, Matthew Spiro in Bremen
A damp and grey day awaits the French national team when their plane lands in Bremen in about an hour's time. Laurent Blanc will have had little more than 24 hours with his players in Clairefontaine, but the coach does have one more training session at the Weserstadion tonight in which to fine-tune preparations for tomorrow's friendly.

Before then, Blanc and one player will address the media. The identity of the player put forward for questioning could well be the man destined to wear the captain's armband in Ukraine this summer. Blanc has confirmed his skipper will be one of Hugo Lloris, Philippe Mexès or Éric Abidal, and has strongly hinted that his captain on Wednesday will continue to lead the side in June.

Les Bleus have had seven different skippers in the Blanc reign. Olympique de Marseille midfielder Alou Diarra, who led Blanc's FC Girondins de Bordeaux side to the title in 2008/09, was the early frontrunner, yet the emergence of Yann M'Vila and Yohan Cabaye mean he is no longer considered an automatic first choice. Blanc's most recent skipper, Lloris, is favourite to land the role on a long-term basis, not least because Abidal has stated that he is not keen to take on the extra responsibility.

Unbeaten in 17 matches, the 1998 FIFA World Cup winners arrive in Germany without two of their main forwards in Karim Benzema and Loïc Rémy, both of whom are injured. All eyes will therefore be on Montpellier Hérault SC striker Olivier Giroud, the top scorer in Ligue 1, who is poised to start as the visitors' main striker.

Tuesday 12.05, Ondřej Zlámal in Prague
Czech coach Michal Bílek had to make two last-minute changes to his squad after Roman Hubník and Tomáš Rosický were ruled out of the friendly against the Republic of Ireland. "We took Jiří Štajner as an alternative to Rosický," said Bílek, who has also called up left-back David Limberský to replace central defender Hubník.

"The atmosphere in the team is great, the players are together. It would be useless to get down on ourselves because of a bad friendly result. It is a great difference to play in the Czech league and at international level. I wish to see how the younger players will deal with this more demanding challenge."

Tuesday 12.00, Sujay Dutt in Zagreb
There is no more famous face in Sweden than Zlatan Ibrahimović but with a mother from Croatia and a father from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the striker also has a huge following in the Balkans. There are exceptions, though; after striking up a conversation with the passenger next to me on the flight to Zagreb, the lady was nonplussed about the AC Milan striker. "Zlatan is a very common name in these parts," she said. At the press conference at Sweden's team hotel, normal service resumed – the first question from the Croatian media to Erik Hamrén: "Has Zlatan arrived yet? If not, when do you expect him?"

Tuesday 11.30, José Nuno Pimentel in Lisbon
With most of the press focus on Friday's game between Portuguese Liga leaders FC Porto and second-placed SL Benfica, O Jogo turns its attention to the Eagles' 20-year-old forward Nélson Oliveira: "Yesterday Nélson Oliveira fulfilled a childhood dream," it reads. "He trained for the first time with the national team after a long time in the youth teams, where he won 70 caps. Tomorrow he should take the final step and make his debut in the friendly against Poland."

The headline in Record is "New M in the midfield", which refers to the likely addition of Manuel Fernandes alongside [Raul] Meireles and [João] Moutinho. "Paulo Bento has no time to lose and has just tomorrow's match to experiment."

Tuesday 11.15, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou from Athens
It's not a typical day in Athens, with low temperatures, a biting wind and light snow swirling around. Those are the conditions in which Greece trained yesterday afternoon in preparation for Wednesday's friendly in Crete against Belgium. At 13.00 local time the squad will fly to Heraklion, where the weather is similar to that in the capital. Seldom does one of Greece's most popular tourist destinations have a dusting of snow.

The squad was in good spirits yesterday and by the determination on show in training, it was obvious competition is fierce among the players to secure a place in Fernando Santos's 23-man party for UEFA EURO 2012. The coach told that he is confident his charges will rise to the occasion this summer and would welcome a quarter-final against his homeland, Portugal.

Tuesday 11.00, newsdesk
All 16 UEFA EURO 2012 contenders are in action on Wednesday as they step up their preparations for the summer. Of the ten matches tomorrow involving EURO sides, six are direct meetings of countries who will be present in Poland and Ukraine.

Israel v Ukraine
Greece v Belgium
Denmark v Russia
Croatia v Sweden
Italy v United States
Germany v France
Poland v Portugal
Republic of Ireland v Czech Republic
England v Netherlands
Spain v Venezuela

For more on tomorrow's action, read our international friendly preview.

Last updated: 05/12/13 19.03CET



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