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Holland, Portugal, Germany in Dream Euro 2012 Battle

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KIEV: Heavyweights Holland, Germany and Portugal will face off at the Euro 2012 finals with defending champions Spain tackling Italy while Friday’s draw also paired England against cross-Channel rivals France.

The tournament kicks off on June 8, when Poland play 2004 champions Greece at the National Stadium in Warsaw, with the final taking place at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium on July 1.

Arguably the toughest pool will see the World Cup finalists Holland tackle Germany, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and dark-horses Denmark in Group B.

“I saw all the coaches and I did not see a happy face. All four of us agree that Group B is the most difficult,” said Holland coach Bert van Marwijk, whose team start against Denmark in Kharkiv on June 9.

“The advantage is that we will play three very motivated sides. I love Germany, they are great opponents, but the most important match will be the first against Denmark.”

Holland were hammered 3-0 by Germany in a friendly in Hamburg last month and Van Marwijk said he is looking forward to meeting Joachim Loew’s team again in Kharkiv on Wednesday June 13.

Germany open their campaign against Portugal on June 9 and Loew said his team are relishing the showdown.

“We’ll take it as it comes, we have no fear,” said Loew. “Before the draw I said that there was no team I preferred to meet, everyone will be hard to play against.”

Having lifted the Euro 2008 title in Vienna, world and European champions Spain will meet the Italians in Group C along with the Republic of Ireland and Croatia.

Ireland’s Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni had hoped to avoid his home country.

“Italy were the one team we wanted to avoid for many reasons. They’re mentally strong and obviously I know them well,” said Trapattoni.

“Given where we are in the world rankings, being drawn against Italy and Spain, we know it’s tough but we just have to play them.”

Vincente del Bosque’s Spain will tackle Italy in their opening group game in the Polish city of Gdansk on June 10.

“It is not an easy group, but neither is it impossible, we have to give respect to our rivals,” said del Bosque.

“Italy are not easy opponents, they beat us in a friendly this year. Croatia, like Ireland were impressive in the play-offs, and have players at some of the best clubs in Europe.”

England have been drawn in Group D with co-hosts Ukraine, Sweden and 2000 champions France.

“It’s not easy,” said England coach Fabio Capello. “Obviously the most difficult match is against France. We lost to them at Wembley (in a friendly last year) and they’re very good.I have faith in my team and my players. They’re all young, I think they can give a lot.”

France coach Laurent Blanc admitted he is glad Les Bleus will not have to face suspended striker Wayne Rooney, with the Manchester United star banned for all of England’s Euro 2012 group matches.

He was sent off in the final qualifier against Montenegro for kicking Miodrag Dzudovic, but his appeal against the ban will be heard by UEFA on Thursday.

“A player of the class of Rooney, who is not in the opposing team, that is always good news,” said Blanc.

Capello is hoping UEFA will show some leniency to allow the star striker to play in some of the group matches, with England set to also face Sweden in Kiev on June 15 and the Ukraine in Donetsk on June 19.

Co-hosts Poland will face Greece, Russia and the Czech Republic in Group A.

Earlier in the day, organisers insisted the tournament would be a huge success despite concerns about a lack of hotel rooms and inadequate infrastructure.

“Euro 2012 will be a resounding success, a milestone in the history of European football,” declared UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino.

“Airports, roads, train stations and hotels have been developed or built from scratch.

“Poland and the Ukraine are ready to cope with a massive influx of tourists next summer. Work that normally takes 20 years has been done in a few years.”

After repeated delays and spiralling costs, Ukraine has now opened the stadiums in their four host cities.

The Olympic Stadium is the most expensive jewel in the tournament’s crown — at a cost of more than $550 million — with completely new venues in Lviv and Donetsk to go with the refurbished stadium in Kharkiv.