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EURO team camps: 1 June

Published: Friday 1 June 2012, 19.44CET
Our latest updates include praise for Cristiano Ronaldo, an insight into Spain's motivational methods and how Borussia Dortmund's Bundesliga triumph can help Poland.
EURO team camps: 1 June
Portugal coach Paulo Bento has described his skipper Cristiano Ronaldo as "the best in the world" ©Getty Images
 
Published: Friday 1 June 2012, 19.44CET

EURO team camps: 1 June

Our latest updates include praise for Cristiano Ronaldo, an insight into Spain's motivational methods and how Borussia Dortmund's Bundesliga triumph can help Poland.

UEFA EURO 2012 kicks off this time next week and as anticipation rises, our team of reporters assigned to each of the competing nations bring you the latest news from the camps.

Poland (Alex O'Henley, @UEFAcomAlexO
Captain Jakub Błaszczykowski hopes the success of the Polish players at German double winners Borussia Dortmund this season will inspire the national team to similar success at UEFA EURO 2012. Błaszczykowski wants the feel-good factor shared with Robert Lewandowski and Łukasz Piszczek to rub off on their international colleagues. "Some players like myself had a successful season at club level and now we want to spread that success throughout the national team. If we can infect the team with the success we've had it can only help."

Having won their last two friendlies against Slovakia and Latvia, coach Francisek Smuda intends to field "as strong a team as possible" against Andorra tomorrow although he is also mindful of the risk of losing players to injury having already seen goalkeeper Łukasz Fabiański return home early. "If the game is going as we want, that will give me the chance to introduce more of the younger players and give some game time to those who need it," he said.

Spain (Graham Hunter, @UEFAcomGrahamH)
One of the very pleasant things about working around the Spain squad is that, without exception, they are bunch of interesting, educated, thoughtful guys. Their art is physical and technical but most of them are also gifted in how they think and express themselves. Their captain, Iker Casillas, is an example. Experience teaches that while he is not flowery in his discourses there aren't many wasted words. What he says bears examination. Today, as the players gathered at Spain's Las Rozas training centre, united for the first time and with the pleasant surprise of David Villa and Carles Puyol visiting them, the captain pointed out: "If we succeed, a great part of the work will be done in our heads."

His phrase echoes the slogans currently posted around the Spain team hotel in Gniewino, northern Poland. These are: 'History doesn't make you a champion – but humility does'; 'History doesn't win you games – effort does'; and 'History doesn't score goals – talent does'. So if Spain’s rivals are looking for any signs of relaxation or rust then, I fear, they will need to look for other chinks in the champions' armour.  

Portugal (Andy Brassell, @UEFAcomAndyB)
Portugal coach Paulo Bento has today been talking about Cristiano Ronaldo, praising his captain's contribution but emphasising that the Real Madrid CF forward is not expected "to do everything". Speaking to journalists at Portugal's training camp in Obidos, Bento said he was looking for a real team effort from his squad, despite the presence among them of probably the most talked-about player at UEFA EURO 2012.

"We're not putting pressure on him to solve all our problems," Bento said, "but we hope he'll help us to solve some of them. You can't compare what someone produces as a Real Madrid player and as a national-team player. We want a team that plays well. We don't want Ronaldo to have to do everything."

Bento eulogised Ronaldo's famous work ethic, and underlined that Portugal's fate in Poland and Ukraine should not be the sole criterion used to judge the success of his player's season. "He's produced an extraordinary amount, both in terms of finishing and assists," said the coach. "This has translated into winning one of the most important prizes [the Spanish league title]. I believe that he can be considered the best in the world for what he's done."

Poland (Alex O'Henley, @UEFAcomAlexO)
One of the duties for every UEFA EURO 2012 squad over the next few days will be the obligatory photo shoot for sponsors and media outlets. These are invariably seen as a chore by most players but when push comes to shove, can also be a bit of fun as well as providing a potential ice-breaker between players and press. So it proved with the Poland squad today as they had their team photo taken for a major sponsor. While some were happy to have make-up applied, others visibly winced at the very notion, most notably star striker Robert Lewandowski for whom it was all obviously a bit too girly.

Then it was over to our UEFA crew to add new boy Grzegorz Sandomierski to the cast of players and complete what's called a 'green-screen shoot'. What's that, I hear you ask? Well, it's the head and shoulders shot you see of players in the stadiums when teams are announced as they turn round with arms folded looking purposefully towards camera. The green reference relates to the colour of the drape which is used as a backdrop during filming. Anyway, the Jagiellonia Białystok goalkeeper, called up as a replacement for injured Arsenal FC keeper Łukasz Fabiański, sailed through his various moves. A real one-take wonder. He'll be hoping to do the same if he gets a chance to perform on the big stage once the real action starts.

Republic of Ireland (Garry Doyle, @UEFAcomGarryD)
If training sessions are a clear indicator of team selections then Giovanni Trapattoni has practically picked his side for their Group C opener against Croatia on 10 June in Poznan. With John O'Shea and Shay Given training for the second successive day, injury fears have completely eased within the Irish camp.

They aren't the only doubts to have disappeared. Any question over Trapattoni tinkering with his tried-and-trusted XI are also yesterday's news after a training game today provided a window into the Italian's mind. In a bibs versus non-bibs run-out, the Italian selected Given in goal, O'Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger, Stephen Ward in defence, Damien Duff, Keith Andrews, Glenn Whelan and Aiden McGeady in midfield with Kevin Doyle partnering Robbie Keane up front.

Given that Trapattoni has indicated that those who start in Budapest are 90 per cent likely to do so again against the Croats, those who will take the stage and those who will provide the role of the support cast have been determined. Trapattoni's assistant, Marco Tardelli, said: "The players are relaxed now but when we go to Hungary, it's possible to change some things in our mentality. Against Hungary, it will be a very, very important match because the players will start to focus very, very strongly for Poland."

Croatia (Elvir Islamović, @UEFAcomElvirI)
Slaven Bilić has been discussing his Croatia side's game against Norway tomorrow. "We couldn't have a better warm-up for the opening match against Ireland," he said. "Norway are something like Ireland, they're two teams very similar in their style of play and team ability. The match in Oslo will show us where we are a week before our first match. I believe I will get my answers tomorrow. The result is always important and a victory here would bring a better atmopshere and confidence to the team."

Ukraine (Boris Popov, @UEFAcomBorisP)
A symbolic friendly match awaits us in Innsbruck tonight, when the UEFA EURO 2012 co-hosts take on their 2008 counterparts Austria. Four years ago Austria failed to capitalise on home advantage and did not make it out of the group stage. Andriy Shevchenko has suggested Ukraine are poised to do a better job, saying they have progressed as a football team since 2010, citing their collective and individual speed as particular assets. He hopes they can produce as many scoring opportunities as they managed in the impressive dismantling of Estonia.

Ukraine fans are wondering, meanwhile, if Oleh Blokhin will try any of the two keepers and four outfield players left on the bench against Estonia. With Austria likely to pose more of an attacking threat than Estonia, Blokhin may opt for Ruslan Rotan or Denys Garmash, instead of Serhiy Nazarenko. FC Shakhtar Donetsk defenders Vyacheslav Shevchuk and Olexandr Kucher may also get their chance along with one of the goalkeepers – the experienced Olexandr Goryainov or teenager Maxym Koval.

England (Andy James, @UEFAcomAndyJ)
There were plenty of smiles on the faces of England’s players as they emerged at Wembley to a chorus of cheers for their final open training session on home turf. Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard enjoyed the warmest receptions, while fans were also relieved to see Glen Johnson and Danny Welbeck back in full training following their respective injuries.

Theo Walcott required strapping on his ankle early on but quickly rejoined his colleagues and with a seemingly fully fit squad to choose from, coach Roy Hodgson was giving nothing away with regard to his starting lineup for tomorrow's sold-out friendly against Belgium: "I've decided on the back four and central midfielders. Other positions will be considered. You'll find out tomorrow."

One player eager to make his mark on the squad is 21-year-old Jordan Henderson, who took part in his first training session since replacing thigh-injury victim Frank Lampard. Captain Gerrard is confident his Liverpool FC colleague can make an impact: "Jordan's an exciting player, one for the future. It's a big opportunity for him."

Republic of Ireland (Garry Doyle, @UEFAcomGarryD)
Republic of Ireland winger Damien Duff says his pride in becoming an international centurion is outweighed by his desire to make a significant impact at UEFA EURO 2012. Duff, 33, will win his 100th cap if selected by Giovanni Trapattoni for Monday's friendly against Hungary and the three Group C fixtures that follow, which would make him just the fifth Irish player to reach that landmark. "I have not really been thinking about the century thing to be honest," said Duff. "It would be a nice goal to get but points on the board are more important than caps. All I want is for the team to do well."

And the signs are they will. Unbeaten in nearly two years, the unbreakable morale within the squad bodes well for the weeks ahead, when Croatia, Spain and Italy promise to test Ireland's resolve. Yet Duff, a veteran of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, when Ireland reached the round of 16, is fully confident a place in the quarter-finals can be obtained.

He said: "We have always done well in major championships at senior level and if you go back to our underage careers and think back to the 1997 U20 World Cup, you can recall how we upset the odds to reach the semi-finals of that tournament. Our thinking will therefore be positive. Robbie [Keane] and Richie [Dunne] won an Under-18 European Championship a year later, so we have pedigree and hopefully we can carry on that trend."

Poland (Alex O'Henley, @UEFAcomAlexO)
During a visit to the historic old town district of Warsaw this week, Poland defender Damien Perquis outlined his two goals for UEFA EURO 2012.The FC Sochaux-Montbéliard centre-back told daily Super Express he wants Poland to go as far as possible on the field, while off it he aims to trace his Polish ancestry.

Perquis was born and raised in France but his grandmother – and Polish roots – go back to a small town in the region of Wielkopolska. After the finals are over the 28-year-old plans to find out more but in the meantime he has ensured his grandmother will make the journey back to her native country to see him in action for Poland for the first time.

"My grandma wants to come to Poland for the finals," said Perquis. "I have already booked an apartment for my family in Warsaw. It will be a moving moment for all of us. She was about to come for the Poland v Portugal friendly earlier this year, but her passport was out of date and the new one arrived a day too late for her to make the trip. So, the EURO 2012 finals will be the first time she will see me playing for Poland."

Italy (Richard Aikman, @UEFAcomRichardA)
"Playing two friendly matches would have helped us from a tactical point of view," Cesare Prandelli told yesterday's press conference ahead of what, after Tuesday's cancelled fixture against Luxembourg, is now Italy's only pre-UEFA EURO 2012 friendly against Russia this evening. "Those matches help you know what to change during matches. But now we have only one game so we’ll probably try two different formations against Russia."

The starting lineup will give Fabrizio Balzaretti a chance to shine at left-back in the absence of the rested Giorgio Chiellini. The Azzurri will deploy a 4-3-1-2 formation with AC Milan new boy Riccardo Montolivo assuming the 'trequartista' role in the hole behind Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano. The two strikers have been getting on well in training but Prandelli has noticed a difference in 'Fant'Antonio', the former wild child of Italian football. "Whisper it quietly but he does seem to have changed," he said. "Mario Balotelli asked whether he could share a room with Cassano but he said, 'What? Rooming with me as well? No, no, no'."

Denmark (Thomas Mark, @UEFAcomThomasM)
Tomorrow Denmark will play their last warm-up match against Australia – a team they last met shortly before the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Back then Denmark lost 1-0 when a mix-up between keeper Stephan Andersen and Daniel Agger let in Joshua Kennedy for an easy goal. Andersen will be hoping to make a more positive impression this time now that he is the favourite to replace the injured Thomas Sørensen in Denmark’s goal at UEFA EURO 2012.

Andersen does have strong competition in Manchester United FC's Anders Lindegaard yet the fact it was Andersen who came on in place of Sørensen against Brazil puts him in pole position. Lindegaard, four months without a first-team match at United, has admitted it will be hard to convince coach Morten Olsen to go with him. "To play in Ukraine [and against Australia] I have to be more than good. I have to be the best by far because I haven't played for a while and EURO is all about peak performance," he told the Danish newspaper JydskeVestkysten.

Incidentally, only six players from the Danes' starting XI against Australia in 2010 remain in their EURO squad: Andersen, Daniel Agger, Lars Jacobsen, Christian Poulsen, Thomas Kahlenberg and Christian Eriksen.

France (Matt Spiro, @UEFAcomMattS)
Samir Nasri and Patrice Evra both left the France camp in northern France temporarily this morning. Nasri went to see an osteopath about a back problem, while Evra had been given permission to travel to Paris. "He has a family problem," Laurent Blanc said. "He needed to get to Paris urgently, but I can reassure you, it's a positive problem." Blanc also confirmed that Yann M'Vila's recovery from the ankle injury sustained against Serbia last night was going "as planned" and said a final decision on his fitness would be taken on Sunday. Meanwhile, Steve Mandanda (foot) and Blaise Matuidi (thigh) have minor problems and are unlikely to face Estonia on Tuesday.

Greece (Vassiliki Papantonopoulou, @UEFAcomVassP)
After ten days in Austria, Fernando Santos and his Greece players landed back in Athens at noon on Friday. The players were tired but satisfied with the work accomplished in Kitzbuhel – and no doubt looking forward to two days' rest. On Sunday, in the early afternoon, they will meet again to travel to Warsaw.

Reflecting on the narrow 1-0 victory over Armenia last night, their first win of 2012, coach Santos said: "I got some useful conclusions from this match. In the first half, the team were well-organised and applied what we'd practised in training. We were confident when in possession of the ball, but didn't create enough chances to score. We are on the right track. I wish we had more time to prepare, we would definitely be better.

Greece's win would have been more handsome but for two penalty saves by Armenia goalkeeper Roman Berezovski from Giorgos Samaras and Kostas Katsouranis. Santos was not duly worred, saying: "That's football. What we missed now, we'll score when the time is right in Poland."

Germany (Steffen Potter, @UEFAcomSteffenP)
Germany's squad are having a couple of days off between last night's final friendly against Israel in Leipzig and their departure for Gdansk on 4 June. The game itself, which Germany won 2-0, was too one-sided to provide any answers about the stability of Germany's defence but coach Joachim Löw was unusually frank about his plans afterwards.

"The pace in the tournament will be higher than it was today," he said "This starting XI will be very similar to the one next week [against Portugal]." On whether he will use Philipp Lahm at left-back or right-back, he replied: "Next week we will decide where Lahm will play and that's where he'll play for the entire tournament then." Another question was which two of Holger Badstuber, Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker will occupy central defence. "All three of them have international class. I will decide that next week as well," replied Löw who told me recently of his high regard for Mertesacker.

Meanwhile, Bastian Schweinsteiger, sidelined against Israel with a calf injury, has been free of pain for the past two days and is expected to return to full training next week.

Russia (Richard Van Poortvliet, @UEFAcomRichVP)
How times have changed for Roman Pavlyuchenko. After an impressive showing at UEFA EURO 2008, he was in demand from top clubs around the continent. Four years on, the 30-year-old has suffered from a combination of injuries and poor form and is just relieved to be on the plane to Poland. "I missed the last three weeks of the season and wasn't able to train and show my best form. [Artem] Dzyuba [who missed the cut] was playing well for Spartak, [Pavel] Pogrebnyak was scoring goals in England and [Aleksandr] Kerzhakov was in excellent form."

Pavlyuchenko has only played 45 minutes of Russia's two warm-up games and failed to catch the eye against Lithuania. However, with an good record of 20 goals in 46 appearances for his country, the FC Lokomotiv Moskva forward will be hoping he can get on the pitch tonight when Russia play their final friendly against Italy and state his case to start the Group A opener against the Czech Republic a week today.

Croatia (Elvir Islamović, @UEFAcomElvirI)
The Croatia squad left their Austrian base in Bad Tatzmannsdorf this morning and flew to Olso, where they will play their last UEFA EURO 2012 warm-up match against Norway tomorrow. Coach Slaven Bilić thanked their Austrian hosts for their warm hospitality and received in return a cake from them with the message "Good luck, Croatia". Bilić also received the wishes of local fans and replied: "With a bit of luck we can do some great things at EURO 2012."

Netherlands (Berend Scholten, @UEFAcomBerendS)
There were five players missing from last night's training session but the prognosis seems bright for all of them. Neither Wilfred Bouma nor John Heitinga appears to have suffered any serious damage from their clash of heads in Wednesday's game against Slovakia. Wesley Sneijder suffered an ankle problem but should be fine, just like Nigel de Jong, who reported some minor complaints. As for Joris Mathijsen, he trained individually and if his recovery from his hamstring injury continues at the present rate he might even be fit for the Netherlands' opener against Denmark.

This morning the players will have a behind-closed-doors training session as preparation for tomorrow's friendly game versus Northern-Ireland in Amsterdam – their farewell appearance before their departure on Monday for Krakow.

England (Andy James, @UEFAcomAndyJ)
After inviting fans, sponsors and selected members of the media to an informal barbecue at the team's pre-tournament hotel in Hertfordshire, the England squad were treated to a talk by Holocaust survivors Ben Helfgott MBE and Zigi Shipper on Wednesday evening. Following an educational video which provided the players with a wealth of background information ahead of their trip to the Auschwitz concentration camp next week, Ben and Zigi related harrowing tales of their experiences of the Nazi regime as the team listened intently.

"It was very moving and very inspirational for us," said England captain Steven Gerrard. "As a footballer, you realise how lucky and privileged you are to lead the lives we are leading today. Theirs is a very interesting story and one that we're privileged to hear."

Spain (Graham Hunter, @UEFAcomGrahamH)
With Sunday's Seville friendly against China looming, Vicente Del Bosque finally has all the Athletic Club and FC Barcelona players at his disposal as their short break after the Copa del Rey final finishes. Two of the latter group, Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta, were central pillars in the UEFA EURO 2008 victory which unleashed a torrent of praise for Spain's exceptional, winning football and their coach from that tournament – Luis Aragonés – has given an interesting summary of the job he did.

Speaking to Marca, Aragonés talked about the great emphasis he put on changing the Spanish playing style and his players' mentality. "It was me who had the idea to implement a new playing philosophy, to use all the small, talented guys and to play on the front foot. I remember that many people told me I was mad. The ultimate success wasn't down to me, though, it was the players' own triumph.

"However, we worked tirelessly on the idea that not only could we win but that we would win. There was a huge change in mentality – something we emphasised to every player individually and in group sessions. My 'captains', Iker Casillas, Carles Puyol and Xavi, were fundamental in that."

Italy (Richard Aikman, @UEFAcomRichardA)
Cesare Prandelli revealed last night the Italy starting lineup to face Russia in Zurich tonight. The team reads as follows: Buffon; Maggio, Bonucci, Barzagli, Balzaretti; De Rossi, Pirlo, Marchisio; Montolivo; Cassano, Balotelli. This means Giorgio Chiellini will not play a match before the start of the tournament but Prandelli insisted the Juventus defender's absence was merely a precautionary measure following his thigh injury. Chiellini will resume full training when the Azzurri return to Coverciano at the weekend.

As Italy prepared to leave for Zurich yesterday, Angelo Ogbonna, the only player from Serie B to be selected in the 23-man squad spoke of his joy at making the cut. "I was hoping until the very end," said the Torino FC defender. "This has been a fantastic season for me. I have to thank Prandelli for always believing in me and I hope to get on for at least five minutes in the tournament. I'm certainly going to give it my all."

France (Matthew Spiro, @UEFAcomMattS)

Yann M'Vila broke down in tears after going off injured in the fifth minute of France's 2-0 win over Serbia last night, fearing he had fractured his ankle. But a scan that showed the Stade Rennais FC midfielder has only suffered a sprain. "The same thing happened to me when I was 13 and I had my leg in plaster for two months," he explained. "I thought about that moment, about my family, and everything came to a head."

M'Vila is confident of featuring in the finals but said "only God knows" if he will be fit to face England on 11 June. Team doctor Fabrice Bryand was more circumspect, saying: "The initial tests are reassuring. There is no fracture. He'll have further tests today and we will inform you of our decision."

Czech Republic (Ondřej Zlámal, @UEFAcomOndrejZ)
Czech Republic coach Michal Bílek revealed his starting lineup for the last warm-up match against Hungary which will be played at a sold-out Letná Stadium in Prague tonight. It is: Čech; Gebre Selassie, Sivok, Kadlec, Limberský; Plašil, Jiráček; Rezek, Kolář, Pilař; Baroš (4-2-3-1). Bílek also hinted that after including captain Tomáš Rosický instead of Daniel Kolář, the lineup could be the same as for the Czechs' opening game against Russia. “But there is still one [question]," he added, "if Michal Kadlec plays at left-back." So the Czech 11-piece puzzle might have yet another solution.

The pre-match training session at Letná was open to the public and among the fans was three-year old Patrik Baroš with his grandfather. When little Patrik started crying his father Milan was allowed to come over and calm him down, and he later got to kick a ball about – and showed he has inherited some of his dad’s footballing genes.

Sweden (Sujay Dutt, @UEFAcomSujayD)
The solution to Johan Elmander's foot problem might be the same kind of orthopaedic sole that enabled David Beckham to play at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. A firm in Umea, northern Sweden, which produced a tailor-made sole for the Englishman ten years ago has now made one for Elmander. "Beckham had nearly the exact same problem," Kent Wedman of Ortolab told local media in Umea.

Both players suffered fractures between the third and fourth metatarsal and while Elmander's fracture has healed, it is hoped that the sole will ease the pain he still feels when playing. According to Sweden's team doctor, Leif Swärd, the Galatasaray AŞ striker is fit enough to play already – if it were not for the pain. Swärd does not want to administer pain-killers, and this is where the sole comes in.


Last updated: 03/12/12 23.57CET

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