Euro 2012: Coach Capello happy with ‘balanced’ group

England manager Fabio Capello waits for the beginning of the Final Draw for the Euro 2012 soccer tournament in Kiev, Ukraine.

England manager Fabio Capello waits for the beginning of the Final Draw for the Euro 2012 soccer tournament in Kiev, Ukraine.

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Coach Fabio Capello was relieved to avoid the difficult Group B at Euro 2012 and content with England’s “balanced” Group D draw.

England will face France, Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine following yesterday’s draw in Kiev.

Though they must play all their games in Ukraine, having opted to base themselves in Poland, Capello’s men nevertheless have one of the easier pools on paper.

Spain and Italy will meet in Group C – providing an imposing test for the Republic of Ireland – while Group B will comprise three past champions in Holland, Denmark and Germany as well as 2004 runners-up Portugal.

“I think Group B was the worst, Group A was better,” Capello said, reflecting on co-hosts Poland’s grouping with Greece, Russia and the Czech Republic.

“We have a balanced group, we need to play against Ukraine, one of the hosts of the tournament, and I remember them from when we played them in the qualifiers for the World Cup.”

Rivals

England will begin their campaign against rivals France, whom they have not beaten in five meetings, in Donetsk on June 11.

And Capello said: “Against France will be a tough game, usually the first game is really difficult and it will be difficult for us, it will be difficult also for France.

“The third game will also be a difficult game.”

Sweden await in Kiev on June 15 before England again travel to Donetsk four days later to tackle Ukraine.

The travelling issue will not force a rethink in the Football Association’s plans, with Capello confirming: “It is better to find a really good place and good facilities, and we will stay in Krakow and travel.”

The tournament will mark the end of Capello’s tenure with the Three Lions, and he confirmed he will not reconsider his future no matter the outcome for his side.

“I am happy with my job, and I hope my last tournament will be something important for the fans,” he said.

Assessing the tournament as a whole, Capello said: “The favourite always is Spain, they are the best team in world at the moment, difficult to beat, fantastic.

“Holland are also a good team and probably you can find a surprise – Portugal is one and some new teams, maybe one of the teams that host the tournament.”

The Republic, appearing in the championships for the first time since 1988, will open against Croatia in Poznan on June 10.

Yet it is the games against Spain, winners in 2008 and World Cup victors in South Africa last year, and 1968 champions Italy which will most excite their fans.

Giovanni Trapattoni’s men will travel to Gdansk to face Spain on June 14 and return to Poznan to play Italy four days later.

Sweden coach Erik Hamren is looking forward to renewing rivalries with England.

The Scandinavians have proved something of a bogey team for England, who finally ended a 43-year-wait for a win against the Swedes with a 1-0 result in a friendly last month.

Hamren said: “I am looking forward to it because its always fantastic to play England, the atmosphere and history is fantastic.

“It will be a great game for us and for the nation.

“I don’t think you saw the real Sweden in the friendly game at Wembley last month, I hope not anyway.

“I was not satisfied with that game and we need to be much, much better in the summer. If we play like we did against England and Denmark (in qualifying) then we will not have a chance of getting out of the group stage.”

France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris believes England will be the team to catch in Group D.

“England are one of the biggest nations in football. They’ll start as favourites in the group,” said the Lyon player.

“Behind England, Ukraine, Sweden and France will fight for second place.

“If that’s the case, so much the better, but everything will be decided on the pitch. We’ll have the time to prepare properly before the tournament.”

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