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International friendlies: as they happened

Published: Wednesday 29 February 2012, 23.50CET
It is 100 days to go until UEFA EURO 2012 begins and all 16 contenders were in action tonight. Relive the action as brought to you by's team of reporters across Europe.

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Published: Wednesday 29 February 2012, 23.50CET

International friendlies: as they happened

It is 100 days to go until UEFA EURO 2012 begins and all 16 contenders were in action tonight. Relive the action as brought to you by's team of reporters across Europe.

Croatia 1-3 Sweden
Denmark 0-2 Russia
England 2-3 Netherlands
Germany 1-2 France
Greece 1-1 Belgium
Israel 2-3 Ukraine
Italy 0-1 United States
Poland 0-0 Portugal
Republic of Ireland 1-1 Czech Republic
Spain 5-0 Venezuela

Wednesday 23.50, newsdesk
Thanks for following the action with us tonight, all the reports are above and there will be reaction from all the matches tomorrow morning on Just 99 days to go now...

Wednesday 23.45, newsdesk
Bert van Marwijk, Netherlands coach:
"It was not all good, but basically was a deserved victory. And to win here at Wembley is not bad."

Wednesday 23.32, newsdesk
Dick Advocaat, Russia coach:
"It was a great win against a strong team. It was important for us to see our current form. After the first goal Denmark had good chances to score. Had they capitalised at least on one of them, there would have been a different scenario in this game. But as soon as we scored the second it became much easier for us, though that's no reason to underestimate our opponents."

Wednesday 23.30, newsdesk
Here are all tonight's results for teams not going to UEFA EURO 2012...
Armenia 3-1 Canada
Austria 3-1 Finland
Azerbaijan 0-2 Palestine
Cyprus 0-0 Serbia
Georgia 2-1 Albania
Hungary 1-1 Bulgaria
Latvia 0-0 Kazakhstan
Luxembourg 2-1 Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Malta 2-1 Liechtenstein
Moldova 0-0 Belarus
Montenegro 2-1 Iceland
Northern Ireland 0-3 Norway
Romania 1-1 Uruguay
Slovenia 1-1 Scotland
Switzerland 1-3 Argentina
Turkey 1-2 Slovakia
Wales 0-1 Costa Rica

The Wales game was in tribute to their late manager Gary Speed and his successor Chris Coleman said: "This was about one guy and it was important we were there to show our support and celebrate his life."

Wednesday 23.23,Graham Hunter at La Rosaleda
GOAL & RESULT: Spain 5-0 Venezuela
Soldado's hat-trick arrived with five minutes left as the Valencia CF connection saw Jordi Alba playing a centre for his team mate to finish. Spain were often scintillatingly good.

Wednesday 23.12, newsdesk
England caretaker coach Stuart Pearce:
"We probably showed a little bit of naivety and a slight lack of belief. That's something we've got to get into the squad, going forward. Once we'd got ourselves back into the game, we're disappointed to have been beaten. But there were a few good showings, we learned a lot and that was the exercise."

Wednesday 23.04, newsdesk
Ukraine's Artem Milevskiy: "The national team had not been together for a long time, and this victory was very important for us. The weather was far from perfect and created problems for everyone, but we tried not to pay attention and still get a win. Not everything worked for us, there were mistakes, but that's normal for today. The most important thing was to get the result."

Wednesday 23.03, Oleg Sokol at Parken Stadion
Denmark coach Morten Olsen:
"Everybody could see that some of our four players from our national league are not currently in competition. The Danish league will resume only on Sunday. Russia were in better physical shape as their players are playing in the Champions League, the majority of their players come only from two clubs and they understand each other very well on the pitch."

Wednesday 23.00, newsdesk
With all but one game over, we will now catch up with some reaction from tonight's matches...

Wednesday 22.55, Graham Hunter at La Rosaleda
RED CARD & MISSED PENALTY: Drama here in Malaga as Roberto Soldado rounds keeper Hernández only for Fernando Amorebieta to tug the striker to the ground and receive a red card. However the Valencia CF forward misses the penalty, Hernádez, saving to his right, and Spain remain 4-0 up against ten men Venezuela.

Wednesday 22.52, Kevin Ashby at Wembley
RESULT: England 2-3 Netherlands

Arjen Robben scored twice, including an added-time winner, as the 2010 FIFA World Cup finalists got the better of a youthful England side. Robben and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had eased the visitors in front in a three-minute spell just prior to the hour before a dramatic finale in which Gary Cahill and Ashley Young levelled. Both Huntelaar and England's Chris Smalling left the field on stretchers after clashing heads as the FC Schalke 04 striker headed in his goal.

Wednesday 22.51, Steffen Potter in Weserstadion
RESULT: Germany 1-2 France
Laurent Blanc’s men took a deserved lead through the menacing Olivier Giroud after 21 minutes, maintaining that advantage thanks to some good luck and the excellent Hugo Lloris in goal. Composed after the interval, Les Bleus doubled their advantage through Florent Malouda doubled the advantage after 69 minutes.

Wednesday 22.47, Kevin Ashby at Wembley
GOALS: England 2-2 Netherlands, then England 2-3 Netherlands
Incredible scenes as Ashley Young clips in an equaliser for England before Arjen Robben's strike deflects in off Cahill to surely win it for the Dutch. Three goals in five minutes here.

Wednesday 22.46, Piotr Kozminski at Warsaw National Stadium
RESULT: Poland 0-0 Portugal
The venue that will stage the UEFA EURO 2012 opening game in 100 days' time still awaits its first goal. In the first half the visitors were more dangerous, especially through Nani, but the Manchester United player was not able to beat Wojciech Szczęsny. Poland had only one clear chance but Ireneusz Jeleń was denied by Rui Patricio. After the break Portugal pressed less, but Poland was not able to convert what chances they had.

Wednesday 22.45, Graham Hunter at La Rosaleda
GOAL: Spain 4-0 Venezuela
Three minutes after his first, Soldado scores again thanks to a lovely right-wing cross from Álvaro Arbeloa. Sore news for the absent Fernando Torres but sweet for Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque, who discovered the 14-year-old Soldado and took him to Real Madrid CF.

Wednesday 22.43, Steffen Potter at Weserstadion
GOAL: Germany 1-2 France
Thomas Müller sends in a powerful, low cross from the right which unmarked substitute Cacau turns in at the far post.

Wednesday 22.42, Graham Hunter at La Rosaleda
GOAL: Spain 3-0 Venezuela
Roberto Soldado, on the pitch for less than five minutes, scores his first international goal. Fellow half-time substitute Santi Cazorla laid it on.

Wednesday 22.41, Kevin Ashby at Wembley
GOAL: England 1-2 Netherlands
England halve the deficit through an unlikely source, Gary Cahill. The centre-back was occupying a centre-forward’s position as he collected a measured Leighton Baines cross, stepped back inside a defender and finished confidently. It could be an interesting last five minutes or so here.

Wednesday 22.35, Alex O'Henley at Dublin Arena
RESULT: Republic of Ireland 1-1 Czech Republic
Ireland are now unbeaten in 12 matches.

Wednesday 22.38, Richard Aikman at Stadio Luigi Ferraris
RESULT: Italy 0-1 United States
Despite Italy's bold late attempt to rescue the match the US defence won the day, holding on to the slender lead offered by Clint Demspey's 55th-minute strike, which was borne of a rare lapse at the back by the Azzurri. There were nonetheless some bright performances by Sebastian Giovinco and Fabio Borini, while Riccardo Montolivo also showed his quality when he came on as a substitute.

Wednesday 22.35, Alex O’Henley at Dublin Arena
GOAL: Republic of Ireland 1-1 Czech Republic
Ireland level with four minutes remaining. Keith Andrews picks out substitute Simon Cox and from a tight angle the striker squeezes the ball underneath Petr Čech.

Wednesday 22.30, newsdesk
We will be rounding-up all the results from the teams not at UEFA EURO 2012 later but one notable scoreline, Argentina winning 3-1 in Switzerland with a fellow named Lionel Messi scoring his first international hat-trick.

Wednesday 22.28, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou at Pankritio Stadium
RESULT: Greece 1-1 Belgium
Solid defensively as usual but lacking imagination up front, Greece were held by stubborn Belgium, who were reduced to ten players for the final 30 minutes.

Wednesday 22.25, Steffen Potter at Weserstadion
GOAL: Germany 0-2 France
The excellent Mathieu Debuchy provides another low cross from the right, finding Olivier Giroud again. Tim Wiese blocks the shot, but cannot stop Florent Malouda converting the rebound.

Wednesday 22.22, Elvir Islamović at Maksimir Stadium
RESULT: Croatia 1-3 Sweden
A comfortable win in the end for Sweden, who were sharper and more consistent in Zagreb. The disappointed Croatian fans' biggest cheer of the night went to Zlatan Ibrahimović following his substitution on 84 minutes. Slaven Bilić has plenty to think about over the next three months.

Wednesday 22.18, Kevin Ashby at Wembley
INJURY: Huntelaar and Smalling have left the pitch on stretchers. Luuk de Jong has replaced Huntelaar, Phil Jones is on for his fellow Manchester United FC defender.

Wednesday 22.16, Andy James at Wembley
GOAL: England 0-2 Netherlands
The Netherlands can barely believe their luck at Wembley, where Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has doubled the Dutch lead with a solid header from Dirk Kuyt's right-wing cross. The FC Schalke 04 striker, who marks his 50th cap with a goal, collided with Chris Smalling as he rose to connect with the ball, leaving both players requiring treatment.

Wednesday 22.15, Graham Hunter at La Rosaleda
GOAL: Spain 2-0 Venezuela
Three minutes after Iniesta's strike David Silva plays a sweet one-two with Fàbregas before sending a fierce left footed shot beyond Hernández

Wednesday 22.14, Kevin Ashby at Wembley
GOAL: England 0-1 Netherlands
Arjen Robben scores with a crisp low shot from outside the area having picked up the loose ball in his half and charged in unopposed. Joe Hart had no chance.

Wednesday 22.11, Graham Hunter at La Rosaleda
GOAL: Spain 1-0 Venezuela
The goal which Spain have threatened from the off finally arrives. Andrés Iniesta takes advantage of a Cesc Fàbregas cross from the left and cracks his shot past Daniel Hernández.

Wednesday 22.01, Elvir Islamović at Maksimir Stadium
GOAL: Croatia 1-3 Sweden
Substitute Larsson has scored again, this time set up by Ibrahimović's short pass.

Wednesday 21.58, Richard Aikman at Stadio Luigi Ferraris
GOAL: Italy 0-1 United States
Andrea Barzagli fails to deal with a long ball from deep, and Clint Dempsey is first to pounce, rifling in a low right-footed shot across goal from the area's edge.

Wednesday 21.58, Alex O'Henley at Dublin Arena
GOAL: Republic of Ireland 0-1 Czech Republic
Milan Baroš puts the visitors ahead six minutes into the second half. Jan Rezek plays the ball in behind the Irish defence and Baroš curls a right-footed shot past Shay Given from 15 metres.

Wednesday 21.55, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou at Pankritio Stadium
RED CARD: Belgium's Nicolas Lombaerts is off for a second bookable offence. Still Greece 1-1 Belgium.

Wednesday 21.50, newsdesk
Our UEFA EURO 2012 McDonald's Fantasy Football game has launched with some superb prizes. Pick your team now.

Wednesday 21.43, Elvir Islamović at Maksimir Stadium
GOAL: Croatia 1-2 Sweden
One minute into the second half, Sweden are ahead again. Pletikosa denies Samuel Holmén, but fellow substitute Sebastian Larsson converts on the follow-up.

Wednesday 21.37, Oleg Sokol at Parken Stadion
RESULT: Denmark 0-2 Russia
Russia deservedly won in Copenhagen with goals from Roman Shirokov on four minutes and Andrey Arshavin - who also set up the first - just before the break. Denmark dominated possession after the break and created a few chances but FC Anzhi Makhachkala goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov kept his cool.

Wednesday 21.30, newsdesk
The last game has now kicked off. You can see all the latest scores and results above.

Wednesday 21.28, Graham Hunter at La Rosaleda
Spain have confirmed their XI to start against Venezuela in the last of this evening's kick-offs. Fernando Llorente, as expected, is up front.

Spain: Casillas; Arbeloa, Ramos, Piqué, Alba; Alonso, Busquets, Iniesta, Fabregas; Llorente, Silva.

Wednesday 21.23, Elvir Islamović at Maksimir Stadium
GOAL: Croatia 1-1 Sweden
After a long ball from the Croatian half, Jonas Olsson makes a terrible blunder, heading the ball over his goalkeeper and into the net

Wednesday 21.26, Matthew Spiro at Weserstadion
GOAL: Germany 0-1 France
An excellent break from Mathieu Debuchy to set up a goal from Olivier Giroud. The right-back has already won several important challenges and is providing a spark on the flank. He is definitely earning points in the eyes of Laurent Blanc.

Wednesday 21.05, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou at Pankritio Stadium
GOAL: Greece 1-1 Belgium
Eden Hazard takes the corner and Nacer Chadli's powerful header beats Orestis Karnezis.

Wednesday 21.03, Elvir Islamović at Maksimir Stadium
INJURY: Vedran Ćorluka has left the pitch, Danijel Pranjić is on as a 29th-minute substitute.

Wednesday 20.54, Steffen Potter at Weserstadion
Not only has Joachim Löw given local boy Tim Wiese the nod between the posts ahead of regular No1 Manuel Neuer, and picked Miroslav Klose, scorer of 25 goals in 26 Werder games in 2005/06 to finish Bundesliga top scorer, but in Mesut Özil a former Bremen player returns to the stadium where has made himself such a name that Real Madrid CF decided to buy him. Özil is arguably the biggest player now to have come from Bremen; many players have left the Green-Whites and joined bigger clubs, but none of them have ever made it to Real Madrid.

So it is no surprise to see that many of the fans here in the Weserstadion are wearing Özil shirts, either the white Germany one or even the old green ones from his time when he dazzled the Bundesliga in a Werder shirt. Had Per Mertesacker not been injured, there could have been another old Werder favourite on the pitch.

Wednesday 20.45, Hugo Pietra at Warsaw National Stadium
The Portugal players are wearing a black armband in a tribute to Jaime Graça, who has died at the age of 70 after a long battle with illness. A minute's silence was observed before kick-off.

Wednesday 20.45, Elvir Islamović at Maksimir Stadium
GOAL: Croatia 0-1 Sweden

Zlatan Ibrahimović, who has a Croatian mother, has struck from the penalty spot. Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa brought down Rasmus Elm in box.

Wedneaday 20.41, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou at Pankritio Stadium
GOAL: Greece 1-0 Belgium
Fanis Gekas takes advantage of a loose ball in the Belgium defence, he chips the ball over goalkeeper Mignolet and the ball lands in front of Salpingidis, who scores with a simple tap-in.

Wednesday 20.34, Oleg Sokol at Parken Stadion
GOAL: Denmark 0-2 Russia
Provider Arshavin turns scorer, getting the ball on the left, cutting in and shooting in from 25 metres out to give Russia a 2-0 lead at the break.

Wednesday 20.32, Piotr Kozminski at Warsaw National Stadium
As expected, Robert Lewandowski misses out for Poland with Ireneusz Jeleń starting. Marcin Wasilewski, a doubt some days ago, has fully recovered and starts the game. If Sebastian Boenisch comes on, it will be for the first time after more than a year out with a knee injury.

Poland: Szczęsny, Dudka, Polanski, Rybus, Obraniak, Wawrzyniak, Błaszczykowski, Jeleń, Perquis, Piszczek, Wasilewski.

Wednesday 20.30, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou at Pankritio Stadium
It will be interesting to see how Greece's defence fare against Belgium forward Kevin Mirallas. The Greek rearguard, featuring three Olympiacos players (right-back Torossidis, central defender Avraam Papadopoulos and left-back José Holebas) will try to stop their club-mate, second in the Greek Super League scorers table with 13 goals so far. Mirallas joked yesterday that he wanted revenge, because his Greek club-mates had made fun of him at Olympiacos training when Belgium failed to qualify for UEFA EURO 2012.

Wednesday 20.29, Hugo Pietra at Warsaw National Stadium
The major news for Portugal is Miguel Veloso and Hugo Almeida starting. Manuel Fernandes could slot into the midfield with Hélder Postiga up front.

Portugal: Rui Patrício, João Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fábio Coentrão, João Moutinho, Raul Meireles, Miguel Veloso, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Hugo Almeida

Wendesday 20.24, Andy James at Wembley
Scott Parker premieres as England captain this evening against the Netherlands and interestingly he is joined by Steven Gerrard, another player tipped for the armband, for the first time ever in the midfield.

There is a first start November 2007 for right-back Micah Richards, while Leighton Baines gets the nod ahead of Ashley Cole on the left. Danny Welbeck makes his first start as the focal point of a three-pronged England attack. At the other end, goalkeeper Joe Hart will be hoping to maintain his unbeaten record - currently 16 games long - in an England shirt.

England: Hart; Richards, Smalling, Cahill, Baines; Barry, Parker, Gerrard; Young, Welbeck, A Johnson.

Wednesday 20.19, Steffen Potter at Weserstadion
No surprises in the Germany team; it will be interesting to see how Hummels and Badstuber fare together in central defence. Löw mentioned to on Monday just how important the injured Mertesacker is to him, so they are probably competing for one place. Similar for Kroos and Khedira in central midfield with Schweinsteiger a certain starter. Khedira had a great World Cup but Kroos could benefit from the coach's desire for a more attacking approach. Exciting left-winger Marco Reus has the chance to make his mark with Lukas Podolski absent.

Germany: Wiese; Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Aogo; Kroos, Khedira; Schürrle, Özil, Reus; Klose.

Wednesday 20.17, Berend Scholten at Wembley
An experienced Netherlands side has been picked, with Robin van Persie favoured over 12-goal qualifying top scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and Nigel de Jong rather than Kevin Strootman as holding midfielder

Netherlands: Stekelenburg; Boulahrouz, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Pieters; Van Bommel, De Jong; Robben, Sneijder, Kuyt; Van Persie.

Wednesday 20.13, Elvir Islamović at Maksimir Stadium
Slaven Bilić has selected the same Croatia XI that played brillianly to win 3-0 in Turkey in the play-offs, Ivan Rakitić getting the nod over Niko Kranjčar on the right of midfield.

Croatia: Pletikosa; Vida, Schildenfeld, Šimunić, Ćorluka; Srna , Dujmović, Modrić, Rakitić; Mandžukić, Olić.

Wednesday 20.09, Sujay Dutt at Maksimir Stadium
With half an hour to go, we have been handed the printed starting lineups. And it turns out that there is a change from what the Swedish FA had previously announced. Anders Svensson starts in midfield, while Sebastian Larsson begins on the bench. Svensson will most probably be in a defensive midfield position with Rasmus Elm moving forward.

Sweden corrected: Isaksson; Granqvist, Mellberg, Jonas Olsson, Martin Olsson; Svensson, Källström; Elm, Ibrahimović, Toivonen; Elmander.

Wednesday 20.07, Alex O'Henley at Dublin Arena
No last minute changes for the Republic of Ireland, whose team was revealed yesterday. Giovanni Trapattoni has said he wants to use captain Robbie Keane in a withdrawn striker role behind Shane Long a la Francesco Totti for Italy, while youngsters James McClean and Shane Duffy could make their international debuts from the bench.

As for the visitors, with Tomáš Rosický ruled out through injury, 35-year-old Jiří Štanjer gets the opportunity to stake a late claim for a place at UEFA EURO 2012.

Republic of Ireland: Given; O'Shea, St Ledger, O'Dea, Ward; Duff, Whelan, Andrews, McGeady; Keane, Long.

Czech Republic: Čech; Gebreselassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limberský; Petržela, Plašil, Jiráček, Štajner, Resek; Baroš.

Wednesday 20.02, Oleg Sokol at Parken Stadion
GOAL: Denmark 0-1 Russia
Shirokov's name will not be forgotten in a hurry in Denmark. Receiving a pass from his returning FC Zenit St Petersburg team-mate Andrei Arshavin, Shirokov cuts in from the left and shoots into the right-hand corner.

Wednesday 20.01, Richard Aikman at Stadio Luigi Ferraris
Having been sent up several blind alleys by Genoa's local constabulary, we have finally arrived the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. It is a ground built in the English style with four stands towering close to the pitch that make for a boisterous atmosphere when full. It is filling up now and the elegantly-dressed Italian players have just come out for a walk around. Though it has threatened, the rain has yet to arrive, although that didn't prevent some of the Azzurri from getting their Dolce & Gabbana suits drenched by an rogue sprinkler.

As revealed in last night's press conference, Italy will take on the United States with promising Torino FC centre-back Angelo Ogbonna partnering Andrea Barzagli from rival Turin club Juventus at the back. La Vecchia Signora is also represented by goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, midfielders Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo, as well as striker Alessandro Matri. In a 4-3-1-2 formation it will be intriguing to see whether Thiago Motta can live up to coach Cesare Prandelli's expectations and "create something interesting" in his free role. The Paris Saint-Germain FC man told me last night: "That position is nothing new to me as I've played there several times before, so I'm looking forward to it."

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

Wednesday 20.00, newsdesk
RESULT: Israel 2-3 Ukraine
The first result of the evening and victory for the UEFA EURO 2012 co-hosts. Denmark and Russia have kicked off with many others starting in the next hour.

Wednesday 19.57, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou at Pankritio Stadium
Fernando Santos has named his Greece lineup and as he revealed yesterday, gives goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis his first cap. The tactics are unchanged, the Portuguese coach trusting his 4-3-3, with Dimitris Salpingidis and Giorgos Samaras out wide despite not being natural-born wingers. As for Giannis Maniatis, he earns his seventh cap tonight, but for the first time plays as holding midfielder, as he has for Olympiacos FC in the last three months. He was previously a right-back

Greece: Karnezis; Torossidis, Papastathopoulos, A.Papadopoulos, Holebas; Fotakis, Maniatis, Katsouranis; Salpingidis, Gekas, Samaras.

Wednesday 19.55, Berend Scholten at Wembley
The Dutch national team just arrived in a still largely empty Wembley, where the first fans are also entering the stands. Oranje coach Bert van Marwijk and his assistants have carried out a first inspection of the pitch. Over 1,000 tickets have been sold to Oranje fans in the Netherlands, while the English FA also sold a small 800 tickets to Dutch fans living in England, so there will be some Orange in the stands during the match.

Wednesday 19.52, Sujay Dutt at Maksimir Stadium
The Sweden team has taken to the field. Some of the outfield players are toying around with the ball while others like Olof Mellberg and Zlatan Ibrahimović are jogging and stretching. Meanwhile, keeper Andreas Isaksson is being put through the paces by goalkeeping coach Lasse Eriksson.

Wednesday 19.46, Matthew Spiro at Weserstadion
Green is most definitely the colour at the Weserstadion tonight. The lush grass pitch looks in beautiful condition, the green seats – usually occupied by green-clad SV Werder Bremen fans – are slowly disappearing from site as the fans arrive, and Germany will be sporting their brand new green shirts tonight against France. The question is will Joachim Löw be feeling the blues later, or might Laurent Blanc be green with envy at full-time?

Wednesday 19.45, Andy James at Wembley
Welcome to Wembley, where the famous turf is looking immaculate ahead of tonight's eagerly-anticipated friendly between England and the Netherlands.

The game marks the start of a new era for the Three Lions, who were left without a manager and a captain following the resignation of former coach Fabio Capello earlier this month. Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce has stepped into the breach for this evening's encounter and is expected to field a largely inexperienced lineup against the Dutch.

For their part, the Netherlands are hoping to bounce back from a 3-0 defeat against Germany in their last international. Bert van Marwijk's charges certainly make up for the hosts' lack of experience with much of the side which reached the 2010 FIFA World Cup final set to feature.

The Oranje will relish the chance to test themselves against high-calibre opposition with Germany, Portugal and Denmark to face in Group B of UEFA EURO 2012, which kicks off just 100 days from now.

Wednesday 19.41, Oleg Sokol at Parken Stadion
It turns out there was a mistake in the Russia lineup given to the media and Roman Shirokov, probably the best player in his country right now, does indeed start.

Russia corrected: Gabulov; Zhirkov, V Berezutski, Ignashevich, Anyukov; Ziryanov, Denisov, Shirokov; Arshavin, Kerzhakov, Dzagoev.

Wednesday 19.40, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou at Pankritio Stadium
Greece and Belgium have faced each other six times, with three victories for Greece, one draw and two defeats. The last meeting was a friendly in Brussels on 17 August 2005. Belgium prevailed 2-0, courtesy of two goals by the Mpenza brothers. In that match, Dimitris Salpingidis earned his first cap, he is now past 50.

Wednesday 19.27, Boaz Goren at Moshava Stadium
GOAL: Israel 2-3 Ukraine
Maor Melikson finds Ben Sahar inside the box and the striker makes no mistake with a shot inside the far post.

Wednesday 19.23, Boaz Goren at Moshava Stadium
GOAL: Israel 1-3 Ukraine
Andriy Yarmolenko finishes from six metres after an accurate pass from the left by Olexander Aliyev to end a fine Ukraine move on the hour mark.

Wednesday 19.20, Hugo Pietra at Warsaw National Stadium
The stands are far away from full yet with about 90 minutes to kick-off but the stadium has magnificent acoustics judging by the noise as the Polish fans cheered the presence of UEFA EURO 2012 mascots Slavek and Slavko, following applause for the first appearance on the pitch of the Poland team.

Wednesday 19.17, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou at Pankritio Stadium
Both the teams are here and are currently walking the pitch. Despite a heavy storm two hours ago, the surface (laid in October) looks perfect. As for the weather, the wind is strong and the rain comes and goes... It will be interesting to see how the players cope with this situation.

There are no more than 500 fans right now in the stands – understandable, because of the weather. The Greek FA and the local organising committee expect the Greek supporters to come in numbers right before kick-off.

Wednesday 19.17, Boaz Goren at Moshava Stadium
GOAL: Israel 1-2 Ukraine
Israel have a goal back ten minutes into the second half. Vitaliy Mandzuk handled in the box and substitute Tomer Hemed converts the second penalty of the game.

Wednesday 19.06, Oleg Sokol at Parken Stadion
Dick Advocaat sprung a surprise with the selection of Roman Shishkin ahead of Roman Shirokov, probably in midfield if the Russia coach sticks with his 4-3-3 system. Roman Pavlyuchenko is ill and will miss the game. Uncapped Dmitri Kombarov is on the bench.

Russia: Gabulov; Zhirkov, V Berezutski, Ignashevich, Anyukov; Ziryanov, Denisov, Shishkin; Arshavin, Kerzhakov, Dzagoev.

Wednesday 18.56, Hugo Pietra at Warsaw National Stadium
Real Madrid CF star Cristiano Ronaldo was on target in the last meeting between Portugal and Poland in 2007. Ronaldo scored Portugal's second goal in a 2-2 draw at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica on their way to UEFA EURO 2008. Prior to that game in Lisbon, Poland beat Portugal 2-1 in Chorzow with Nuno Gomes scoring the consolation. In total Portugal have played nine matches against Poland, winning four and losing three with two draws.

Wednesday 18.52, Thomas Mark at Parken Stadion
It is a warm night in Copenhagen, 17C, and that is before the Parken roof closes for the match.

The team is in and it will be interesting to see how Simon Kjær and Andreas Bjelland perform in central defence; they are competing for a spot alongside the injured Daniel Agger in the summer. As expected, captain Thomas Sørensen wins his 100th cap.

Denmark: Sørensen; Jacobsen, Kjær, Bjelland, Poulsen; Zimling, Kvist, Eriksen; Rommedahl, Krohn-Dehli, Bendtner.

Wednesday 18.50, Boaz Goren at Moshava Stadium
GOAL: Israel 0-2 Ukraine
The home defence is being breached often and Yuval Shpungin gifts the ball to Evgeniy Konoplyanka in the box to double the lead.

Wednesday 18.26, Boaz Goren at Moshava Stadium
GOAL: Israel 0-1 Ukraine
Rami Gershon brought down Andriy Yarmolenko in the box and Oleg Gusev converted the penalty with a low kick to Dudu Aouate's right.

Wednesday 18.20, Alex O'Henley in Dublin
The 'Rocky Road to Poland' started for the Ireland team as they added their vocals to the official UEFA EURO 2012 song on Tuesday. The session took place at the team's training headquarters at the Portmarnock Hotel with Dubliner Damien Dempsey guiding the boys through the lyrics which included Giovanni Trapattoni's famous quote from the qualifying campaign, "the cat is in the sack".

Wednesday 17.59, Kostya Patkevych at Moshava Stadium
Ukraine's starting XI for their meeting with Israel has been named and there are a few surprises. Taras Mikhalik, without a game since October due to long-term knee and ankle problems, starts alongside FC Dynamo Kyiv team-mate Yevhen Khacheridi at centre-back, preferred to FC Shakhtar Donetsk's Olexandr Kucher. Andriy Voronin starts in attack, perhaps his final chance to impress Oleh Blokhin. Andriy Shevchenko is injured.

Ukraine: Shovkovskiy; Gusev, Khacheridi, Mikhalyk, Selin; Yarmolenko, Rotan, Tymoshchuk, Konoplyanka; Dević, Voronin.

Wednesday 17.41, Sujay Dutt in Zagreb

The Sweden lineup to face Croatia is in, and on-song Feyenoord striker John Guidetti will have to wait for his international debut. Johan Elmander has been chosen to lead the line, with Zlatan Ibrahimović tucked in behind him in a 4-2-3-1 formation. As anticipated, Jonas Olsson partners Olof Mellberg at centre-back in the absence of Daniel Majstorovic after the Celtic FC man suffered a serious knee injury in training yesterday.

Sweden: Isaksson; Granqvist, Mellberg, Jonas Olsson, Martin Olsson; Elm, Källström; Larsson, Ibrahimović, Toivonen; Elmander.

Wednesday 17.25, Andy James en route to Wembley
My search for a cafe in deepest, darkest north-west London may have ended in failure but I did at least bump into a group of brightly-dressed Oranje fans in a similar predicament. They reckon this evening's visitors will claim a 3-1 victory at Wembley and when cornered for my prediction, I found it tough to disagree. However, as both managers have already emphasised, tonight's match is more about the performance than the result. Not that Stuart Pearce would mind a repeat of the 4-1 win England enjoyed against the Netherlands in 1996. He was England left-back that day.

Wednesday 17.14, Thomas Mark in Copenhagen
Thomas Sørensen will follow in some significant footsteps against Russia this evening when he makes his 100th international appearance. He will become only the second Denmark goalkeeper to reach the milestone after Peter Schmeichel, the man he came on to replace on his debut in 1999.  "I'm so proud," the Stoke City FC man told "There's nothing greater than representing your country. I never would have guessed that I would make 100 appearances.

"When I took over from Peter Schmeichel I knew I had to do it my way. And I did. I couldn't be a copy of Peter, and I knew that." All things being well, Sørensen will go into his fifth major tournament this summer – and fourth as first choice. As he will turn 36 three days after the UEFA EURO 2012 opener against the Netherlands on 9 June, it is likely to be his last chance to equal another Schmeichel feat: inspiring Denmark to UEFA European Championship glory.

Wednesday 16.59, Alex O'Henley in Dublin
Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni wants Robbie Keane to reprise the role perfected by Italy's golden boy Francesco Totti for UEFA EURO 2012. "Two years ago, I said that Robbie can be like Totti for Ireland," said the coach and, according to Keane, it's a role he's already familiar with. "That is my best position to be honest – a sort of No10 if you like, playing between the striker and midfield," said Keane.

"It's a little bit different from what I'm used to with Ireland. I've normally played a bit higher up the pitch, chasing flick-ons, which has in fairness been very successful for me over the years." An international record of 53 goals in 114 appearances attests to that; you would not bet against him adding to that tally when Ireland host the Czech Republic this evening.

Wednesday 16.52, Richard Aikman in Genoa
After two days of glorious sunshine, bad weather is closing in. Genoa is cloaked in grey skies and the springtime warmth has given way to a distinct chill. It is all big jackets and neck scarves on the narrow cobbled streets of the old town, where, unlike yesterday, the locals are in a hurry to get indoors. The Americans I bumped into were in no rush to go anywhere, however, apart from the stadium; they were confident of seeing their side ruffle a few feathers later this evening.

"It's a shame there's no Landon Donovan [because of injury]," said Mikey, from Denver, "but he didn't play when we beat Slovenia in November and against a new-look team we can kick on. Clint Dempsey is going great, Jozy Altidore can be the man and we're ready to roll." The hosts have been warned – about what exactly, I'm still not sure.

Wednesday 16.38, Piotr Koźmiński in Warsaw
Four hours to go and Poland captain Jakub Błaszczykowski will be counting down the minutes until he can lead his side out at the National Stadium Warsaw, venue for the UEFA EURO 2012 opener. "As a Borussia Dortmund player I have played many matches in the Bundesliga, all at very nice stadiums, but as a Pole I am proud of what we now have in my homeland," said the 26-year-old.

"This new stadium in Warsaw is amazing, and the other EURO venues in Wroclaw, Poznan and Gdansk are not bad either. To play first game here in Warsaw against a big team like Portugal is really a double bonus. We know what we are up against, but we stood up well against Germany [2-2], France [0-1] and Italy [0-2] so we have some experience. I hope we can bring the Polish fans real joy."

Wednesday 16.20, Alex O'Henley in Dublin
The Republic of Ireland are also unveiling a new strip – their away kit gets its first outing when Giovanni Trapattoni's side host the Czech Republic this evening. According to my taxi driver, the mere memory of the garish orange away strip of the late 90s is enough to trigger a sense of foreboding among Irish fans whenever they hear talk of a new away jersey.

"Criminal, dreadful," was how former boss Mick McCarthy described a 3-2 FIFA World Cup qualifying defeat at the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 15 years ago; he could just as easily have been talking about the shirt his players wore that day. Thankfully, the 2012 version is a more sedate affair, predominantly white with a vertical green stripe which the less fashion conscious have unflatteringly compared to half a set of braces.

It looks remarkably like the strip worn by Pelé, Bobby Moore, Ossie Ardiles et al in Escape to Victory. The superstitious among the Irish support will be hoping that is a good omen for the European Championships. How did that film end again? Oh yes, a battling 4-4 draw and then they were free. Trapattoni would gladly settle for that if it meant he could escape Group C.

Wednesday 16.05, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou in Heraklion
The Netherlands are not the only side unveiling new kits this evening (see 15.07). Greece will line up against Belgium sporting their latest home shirt – white with dark blue details – while the away shirt is dark blue, with flashes of sky blue and white. The most distinctive element is the cross, inspired by the cross on the Greek flag, that passes over the crest. Emblazoned on the collar is 'UEFA EURO Champions 2004', a constant reminder of Greece's inspirational feat eight years ago.

Wednesday 15.57, Steffen Potter in Frankfurt
It is a little known fact, but FC Bayern München's team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt has been performing the same role for Germany. He can therefore take ample credit for helping France's Franck Ribéry regain fitness after his classy performance in Sunday's 2-0 league win against FC Schalke 04. His loyalties may be divided in Bremen this evening, though Ribéry has promised that if he scores against he will celebrate with the man who made his presence possible.

Wednesday 15.48, Martyn Hindley in Zagreb
Slaven Bilić met Croatia supporters in the capital on Monday. The fans thanked him for his continued commitment and presented a gift to entice him to stay for much longer: a guide book to Brazil, host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals. Bilić is content to focus on more immediate hurdles, starting with Sweden this evening. "Maybe Sweden aren't Spain but they defeated the Netherlands," he said. "That means they can beat anyone."

Wednesday 15.38, Richard Aikman in Genoa
Jürgen Klinsmann is aiming to right a wrong when he leads out the United States against Italy this evening. "It's true that I've never won against Italy," said the former FC Internazionale Milano and Germany striker. "I've lost in both matches as coach and that makes you understand that to beat the Azzurri you need to give more than 100%.

"I particularly remember the [2006 FIFA] World Cup semi-final. Losing that game was really hard to get over. We were playing at home dreaming of winning the World Cup. To beat Italy you need to score first or else they'll kill you, you can't stay calm against them." The US go into the game on a three-match winning run.

Wednesday 15.30, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou in Heraklion
Fans in Crete had the opportunity to meet the Greece squad at lunchtime. Fernando Santos's players signed autographs and thanked the gathered crowd for their support, before underlining that tonight's match is a friendly only on paper. "It's a very important game for us," said Avraam Papadopoulos, while Lazaros Christodoulopoulos added: "Tonight, against Belgium, we have to prove that we deserve our place in the UEFA EURO 2012 finals."

Wednesday 15.20, Paul Bryan in Madrid
Athletic Club attacker Iker Muniain's staggering rise could reach new heights in Malaga this evening as the 19-year-old is in line for his senior debut for Spain. Known as Bart Simpson among his team-mates, the Liga's youngest goalscorer said he had been warmly welcomed into Vicente del Bosque's squad for the encounter against Venezuela, led by the skipper.

"Iker Casillas told me he was delighted to have a namesake in the national team," Muniain said. "Ever since the first moment I got here, everyone has taken me in. They are all great guys and the atmosphere within the group is fantastic. I'm just trying to remain calm. I'm still very young and all I want to do is to play. It's important to know that the coach likes to take a chance on youth; that's something we've seen for a while now."

Wednesday 15.07, Andy James in London
It may be overcast in north London but the arriving Oranje fans are sure to splatter some colour on the grey as the day progresses. Conversely, the Dutch players will not be wearing their famous orange strip against England this evening. Instead, Bert van Marwijk's charges will take to the field in their new away kit, an all-black number made entirely from recycled polyester.

Wednesday 14.49, Evgeni Polyakov in Copenhagen
Despite the friendly status of today's game against Denmark, Russia are all set to show their best. "This is the last match before the warm-up games before EURO and we haven't seen each other for three months; this game is a crucial part of preparation for the European Championship," said midfielder Igor Semshov.

With the Russian Premier-Liga still coming to the end of its winter break, nobody will chastise Dick Advocaat's men too heavily for any slip-up. Except, that is, the players themselves; despite being shorn of the ill Roman Pavlychenko, they won't settle for anything less than a win. "Russia are always playing for victory. Positive results always inspire; they add wings," added Semshov.

Wednesday 14.29, Richard Aikman in Genoa
One surprise member of Italy's party at last night's training session was Antonio Cassano. The AC Milan striker, who has been out since November following heart surgery, was laughing and joking in the stands as he encouraged his Italy team-mates. "We have missed his lively presence in the camp, so it is great to see him," said Gianluigi Buffon. "His self-deprecation is seeing him through and we hope he can be fit for EURO." Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli told Cassano, "I will wait for you until the very last minute." The striker replied, "I'm trying my best."

Wednesday 14.21, Sujay Dutt in Zagreb
After spending long hours reporting on professional athletes, it's good for a reporter to get some exercise. So I started this matchday by hitting the treadmill at the hotel gym. A few minutes later, Sweden coach Erik Hamrén came in and started walking on the treadmill next to mine. "It's difficult to find the time," Hamrén told me, and I have no doubt that he's right.

The two of us managed about half an hour – Hamrén walking briskly; myself trying to make my running look as effortless as possible. I think I succeeded as when we had finished our sessions the coach told me: "You look to be in good shape." Mission accomplished. Maybe there's time for me to force myself into the squad.

Wednesday 14.16, Hugo Pietra in Warsaw
SL Benfica forward Nélson Oliveira is the only uncapped member of Portugal's squad in Poland and could be another 'bolter' (see 10.46, 11.14). He is no stranger to big competitions, either, having scored four goals as Portugal reached the FIFA U-20 World Cup final last summer.

Wednesday 14.09, Graham Hunter in Malaga
Venezuela striker Miku, a star for Getafe CF, says his team-mates should "fear" Spanish opponents pushing hard to convince Vicente del Bosque to select them for UEFA EURO 2012. He praises Spain's adoption of the FC Barcelona playing style, making it tough for opponents who give them possession cheaply. The visiting side, known as La Vinotinto (the Burgundy), trained for three hours on Monday night and carry a reputation for being a young, fast opponents full of intensity – Málaga CF's La Rosaleda stadium should host cracking match this evening.

Wednesday 14.03, Berend Scholten in London
Dirk Kuyt, Nigel de Jong and Robin van Persie have all experienced the new Wembley with their club sides, and the rest of the squad are eager to savour the atmosphere this evening. Coach Bert van Marwijk summed up the mood on Tuesday, saying: "Everybody loves playing against such good opponents, steeped in tradition. That is why you become a player, and why I became Oranje trainer."

The Telegraaf says that in training yesterday, "the new English football temple made a huge impression on the Oranje squad as they ran onto the pitch." They continued: "They looked around attentively, with mouths agape not only because of the super modern venue, but by the size and scale."

Wednesday 13.48, Matthew Spiro in Bremen
Just had a stroll through the old town and a chance to admire some of the medieval architecture. The town hall and cathedral are particularly striking, while the nearby Marktplatz is bustling with shoppers and hungry workers picking up lunch. One sports shop is trying to take advantage of tonight's match by putting the new white France jersey on display in the window, but the rows of Werder Bremen and Germany shirts seem to be attracting far more interest!

There is certainly a vibrant feel about the city and I'm sure that will be reflected at the Weserstadion tonight, where a capacity crowd is anticipated. Most locals expect a comfortable home victory against Les Bleus. My taxi driver nodded in agreement with me yesterday when I predicted (in extremely rudimentary German) a 3-1 win for the Mannschaft. 'Drei' and 'eins' were the simply first figures that came in to my head – I cannot say much thought went in to it. But if Laurent Blanc's men aren't careful it might not be so far off the mark.

Wednesday 13.36, Piotr Koźmiński in Warsaw
Polish president Bronisław Komorowski will be among the 55,000 spectators at the National Stadium Warsaw, hoping that a recent test of the scoreboard at the venue is portentous: Poland 3-0 Portugal, it read. "The testers obviously have a sense of humour," said Jakub Błaszczykowski, "though I would not mind a result like that to really lift the Polish fans.

Sports daily Przegląd Sportowy also stresses the big test awaiting LOSC Lille Métropole's Ireneusz Jeleń, expected to start in attack in place of the injured Robert Lewandowski. "It would be great to enter the Polish history books by scoring the first goal at the stadium," Jeleń told me earlier this week.

Wednesday 13.25, Alex O'Henley en route to Dublin
Uncapped Portsmouth FC goalkeeper Stephen Henderson has spoken of his delight at being called up for tonight's friendly against the Czech Republic as cover for the injured Kieren Westwood. "It has been an amazing experience to train with the lads," said the 23-year-old. "I'm so proud to have been given the chance to show Mr Trapattoni what I can do and I will continue to give everything I have in the hope of getting on that plane to Poland. It is everybody's dream to be called up to represent their country and hopefully I will earn more chances to do so again in the future."

Wednesday 13.15, Thomas Mark in Copenhagen
Contingency planning is the name of the game in Denmark. Ekstra Bladet asks "What will happen if Nicklas Bendtner suffers an injury?" Assistant coach Peter Bonde admitted there was no like-for-like replacement, that if the Sunderland AFC striker was ruled out it would force a tactical rethink. The solution, says the tabloid, could be to put Christian Eriksen up top. "I've played there for a couple of minutes at Ajax," said Eriksen, suggesting it might not be the best idea. He may get a few minutes more tonight.

Wednesday 13.02, Andy James in London
Scott Parker has been named England captain for tonight's friendly against the Netherlands at Wembley by caretaker boss Stuart Pearce. The news marks another positive development in the career of the Tottenham Hostpur FC man, who received the England player of the year 2011 award, voted for by fans, on Monday.

Parker, 31, made his Three Lions debut in a 3-2 defeat to Denmark in 2003 but only won a further two caps, each whilst with different clubs, over the next eight years. However, the tough-tackling midfielder reignited his international career under Fabio Capello and looks set to feature heavily in England's UEFA EURO 2012 campaign this summer.

Wednesday 12.52, Steffen Potter in Frankfurt
German tabloid Bild is perhaps not giving France the credit they deserve by paring down tonight's match to 'Germany versus Ribéry'. They explain: "[Joachim] Löw shivers thinking of Franck Ribéry. Of all people, Ribéry's Bayern pals are supposed to thwart him! In Thomas Müller, Toni Kroos and Holger Badstuber, Löw will play three Bayern players who will meet Ribéry in different situations." As if it needs emphasising, Ribéry's name appears four times bigger than any other French player in the likely lineups.

The Frankfurter Rundschau focuses closer to home, and the different roles Mesut Özil plays for club and country. He has scored eight goals in 30 caps for Germany compared to one in 22 Liga matches for Real Madrid CF, though he has also weighed in with a creditable 14 assists in the Spanish top flight.

Wednesday 12.35, José Nuno Pimentel in Lisbon
Portuguese daily O Jogo says Paulo Bento is determined his players pick up where they left off with their 6-2 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina in November's play-offs. "Despite it being a friendly, the coach demands his team to achieve a good result and put on a good display in order to arrive at the European Championship with morale high. It's the players' last chance to impress before the 23-man squad is announced for EURO 2012."

The Record says that the sense of occasion is not lost on Portugal, either, as their meeting with Poland will inaugurate the new National Stadium Warsaw, adding: "We want to see what it is like before we come back here at the end of June, during the EURO. If that happens, it will mean the team is at least through the group phase; maybe even further."

Wednesday 12.17, Berend Scholten en route to Wembley
De Telegraaf focuses on the dilemma over how to accommodate two of Europe's in-form strikers into an established 4-2-3-1 formation. "The choice between Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has the potential to grow into a national discussion ahead of EURO. For the first time in a long time, Bert van Marwijk has a difficult choice to make again."

They expect Van Persie to get the nod, despite a knock, while Ola John and Luciano Narsingh will have to be patient for their debuts as the Netherlands look to build momentum. "What the Oranje do at Wembley tonight will determine the mood ahead of EURO 2012. Either it will be frustrating or it will be the familiar story of the whole of the Netherlands going so mad that we are hailed European champions before our first group match against Denmark on 9 June."

Wednesday 12.04, Vassiliki Papantonopoulou in Heraklion
The sun came out this morning in Crete, but the cold wind persists, making it impossible to predict a full house tonight at Pankritio Stadium for Greece's match against Belgium. The front pages of the local newspapers all have a distinctive blue colour, a reminder that this is the national squad's last match on Greek soil before UEFA Euro 2012. Cretan daily Patris leads with the headline, 'Let's go like we did in 2004', reminds readers that the squad's last match in Greece eight years ago – a 1-0 victory over Switzerland before going on to win UEFA Euro 2004 – was at this same venue.

SportDay focuses on Fernando Santos's uncertainty over his best goalkeeper. Orestis Karnezis will make his international debut tonight, becoming the seventh keeper to play under the Portuguese since his appointment in August 2010. That doubt, they say, has persisted since Antonis Nikopolidis's international retirement after UEFA EURO 2008. It seems certain that Santos will wait until the end of the domestic season before judging the form of the six or seven candidates for the three spots at UEFA EURO 2012.

Wednesday 11.55, Paul Bryan in Madrid
El País
opens its coverage of tonight's friendly encounter between Spain and Venezuela in Malaga by stating: "Great teams are those capable of negotiating every type of game." The Spanish daily goes on to say that Vicente del Bosque's main worry going into the encounter at La Rosaleda, "the last test before he decides on his final squad for next summer's showpiece", is "who will score Spain's goals in Poland and Ukraine?"

"The absence of [Fernando] Torres and injuries to David Villa and Álvaro Negredo puts the focus on who will play as the No9 tonight. [Del Bosque] will focus on his resources, the players at his disposal and also seek to find possible solutions to whatever problems might occur for La Roja in their attempts to retain the European title."

Wednesday 11.42, Richard Aikman in Genoa
Gazzetta dello Sport runs with the headline: 'Italy, the final tests', focusing on Cesare Prandelli's call to arms not just to his players but also to the Italian press and public at large, as well as the "interesting" strike force of Alessandro Matri and Sebastian Giovinco.

Turin-based Tuttosport leads with: 'Gioa Torino, l'Angelo è Azzurro' (Torino joy, the Angel is Blue), a headline that plays on both the name of Angelo Ogbonna, the Torino FC defender who will make his first start for Italy, and the nickname of the Italian national team, the Azzurri. "It is a very proud moment for me," said Ogbonna, who was born in Cassino, south of Rome, to Nigerian parents. "I could have chosen Nigeria, but there was never in any doubt. I feel Italian, even though I respect my African origins and the character my parents gave me."

'It's a Matri-Giovinco Italy' says the Corriere dello Sport. "The coach has made it clear the pair are playing for a large slice of their Azzurri futures," writes Andrea Santoni. "It is no coincidence that the two already played together a year ago in Kyiv [Ukraine 0-2 Italy], when they came on in the second half. It was a back-heel by the Atomic Ant that allowed the then newly signed Juve striker to register his first and, so far, only international goal."

Wednesday 11.34, Elvir Islamović in Zagreb
Sports daily Sportske Novosti has reiterated Croatia coach Slaven Bilić's belief that tonight's game with Sweden presents a real acid test. "Home advantage makes Croatia favourites, as does three victories in three matches against them, but make no mistake: Croatia are up against a serious opponent tonight.

"Sweden are stronger than any team Croatia faced in qualifying. It won't be easy to keep a clean sheet as Zlatan [Ibrahimović] has scored 22 goals in 27 matches this season. Croatia have a nice tradition, conceding just once in three matches against Sweden, but this will be a real test."

Wednesday 11.26, Matthew Spiro in Bremen
France's preparations for UEFA EURO 2012 begin in earnest with the friendly against Germany tonight, and the front page of sports daily L'Equipe gets everyone in the mood with its headline 'In the Euro zone' accompanied by a photo of newly-appointed skipper Hugo Lloris.

Laurent Blanc already has a good idea of his starting XI for this summer's tournament and the Germany match gives him the chance to rubber-stamp it. Right-backs Anthony Réveillère and Mathieu Debuchy are perhaps competing for one spot in the squad, assuming Bacary Sagna is selected, and both could get an opportunity to play at the Weserstadion.

In midfield, Marvin Martin, Mathieu Valbuena and Florent Malouda can cement their places in the squad, while Samir Nasri and Franck Ribéry – both almost certain to be included in the 23 – need to show they are worth starting places. Morgan Amalfitano, meanwhile, has little to lose and will look to stake his claim on the right side if handed his debut.

Most eyes, though, will be on striker Olivier Giroud, who is tipped to start ahead of Kévin Gameiro and Louis Saha. Blanc was full of praise for the Montpellier Hérault SC forward last night, but also tried to keep expectations in check. "Olivier still has room for improvement," Blanc said of the Ligue 1 top scorer. "He has been getting better year upon year but he needs to be aware that international football is another step up. We hope he is capable of raising his game to a higher level still."

Wednesday 11.14, Ondřej Zlámal in Prague
The Czech Republic will be wearing new kits in Dublin this evening, though fans in Prague got a sneak preview on Monday when Tomáš Pekhart and Václav Pilař modelled them on the famous Charles Bridge. Amid handing out autographs, Pilař said: "The shirts suit us, I hope I get to play in them at the EUROs; at least for a few minutes."

He will not be in the starting XI tonight, though, after Michal Bílek surprisingly named his team on Tuesday after hearing Ireland counterpart Giovanni Trapattoni had done so. The team will be Čech; Gebreselassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limberský; Plašil, Jiráček; Petržela, Štajner, Rezek; Baroš. Note the inclusion of Jiří Štajner, another 'bolter' (see 10.46), perhaps, at 35.

Wednesday 11.02, Hugo Pietra in Warsaw
After a snowy Tuesday, where the Portugal squad paid tribute to Jaime Graça's passing at the age of 70 after a long illness with a group hug before training at the National Stadium Warsaw, everything is set for the venue's grand opening later today. The sun has broken through and a crowd of 53,000 are expected to cheer on the co-hosts this evening.

Wednesday 10.46, newsdesk
The Guardian
has also been scouring the squads for the "bolters, the players who emerge at the last to stake a claim for tournament inclusion." Their tip is Republic of Ireland winger James McClean, a 22-year-old who has made a huge impression in the Premier League since finally making his debut for Sunderland AFC in December after a €500,000 switch from Derry City FC last summer.

Much of the media spotlight on England's preparations for their meeting with the Netherlands has focused on the choice of captain. The BBC says that, with a host of withdrawals, the field has apparently been narrowed to four – Liverpool FC skipper Steven Gerrard, Tottenham Hotspur FC's Scott Parker, Manchester City FC goalkeeper Joe Hart and his team-mate James Milner.

Wednesday 10.31, Evgeni Polyakov in Copenhagen
Russian daily Sport-Express is looking forward to a game against Denmark that should "reveal this team's real potential". They also warn that despite coach Dick Advocaat saying he already knew as many as 20 of his 23-man squad, "even core players can't feel relieved and relax". They added: "One hundred days [until the start of EURO] is a long time if someone is waiting to get a breath of liberation after a long season and a short period if you want to prepare yourself to climb up the ladder."

Wednesday 10.00, newsdesk
It is exactly 100 days to go before UEFA EURO 2012 kicks off in Warsaw on 8 June and all 16 contenders are in action tonight as they step up preparations. Of the ten matches 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

Read our international friendly preview.

Last updated: 05/12/13 19.02CET



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