Euro 2008 draw announced
LUCERNE, Switzerland (AP) -- World Cup champion Italy, France and the Netherlands got the 2008 European Championship draw none of them wanted. Each other.
The three former European champions were drawn Sunday in Group C with Romania for next year's tournament in Austria and Switzerland.
It could have been even worse -- they could have also drawn three-time champion Germany instead of Romania. But the three coaches looked grim as they came out of the Culture and Convention Center.
"We didn't have an easy qualification and now we have a very difficult group," said Italy coach Roberto Donadoni, whose team also played France in qualifying. "We were unfortunate in the draw, but I had a gut feeling this morning that it would turn out like this."
The tournament opens June 7 when Switzerland plays the Czech Republic in Basel. The final is at the Ernst Happel stadium in Vienna on June 29.
Italy beat France on penalty kicks in last year's World Cup final in Berlin. In Euro 2008 qualifying, the French beat Italy 3-1 at Stade de France and drew 0-0 in Milan. They will meet again in Zurich in their final Group C match on June 17.
"I think there are coaches who are happier today than the four here," said France coach Raymond Domenech, whose team also plays Romania in 2010 World Cup qualifying. "I would have preferred to avoid all of the other three teams in the group, but that's what we got and we have to live with it."
Netherlands coach Marco van Basten, whose team finished behind Romania in qualifying and is struggling for form, said it was not the draw he wanted.
"A very tough group. Two World Cup finalists," he said of Italy and France. "These are great teams, great players, teams with a lot of experience. It's going to be very difficult for us, we have to play Italy first, then France."
Italy and the Netherlands met in the Euro 2000 semifinals, with the Italians winning a penalty shootout after a 0-0 draw. The French rallied to beat Italy 2-1 in overtime in the final.
The Dutch will play both of its big rivals in Bern. They face Italy on June 9 and France four days later.
Defending European champion Greece was drawn in Group D with Russia, Spain and Sweden. It will start its defense against Sweden in Salzburg on June 10 before playing Russia and Spain in the same Austrian city.
At Euro 2004 in Portugal, the Greeks drew 1-1 with Spain and lost 2-1 to Russia in group play, but beat all its other opponents on the way to a surprise title triumph under coach Otto Rehhagel.
"It is certainly not an easy group," Rehhagel said. "We must be careful against Sweden, which has one of the world's best forwards in Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
"There's always lots of talk before games. I am a man of action. The most important thing is to have all players in good condition. As defending champions, we have an obligation to do well in the tournament."
Switzerland, which plays all its group games in Basel, is in Group A with Turkey, Portugal and the Czech Republic. The Portuguese and the Czechs will be strongly favored to advance to the quarterfinals.
Austria, whose home games are in Vienna, is making its Euro debut and is in Group B with Germany, Poland and Croatia. There has been fan violence at previous matches between Germany and Poland, and the Union of European Football Associations has warned Croatia it could be kicked out if there were any repeats of racist chanting and misbehavior by its fans.
"I wouldn't necessarily say that we had a lucky draw," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "Austria will be playing with the entire nation behind it, that shouldn't be underestimated. Croatia eliminated England and how tough is to play against Poland we found out at the World Cup."