Looking ahead to the Euro 2012 draw
Diego Tuson/Getty ImagesSpain won its first major title at Euro 2008, and went on to capture the 2010 World Cup. Can La Furia Roja make it three in a row?
The all-important draw for Euro 2012 is Friday (noon ET on ESPNEWS and ESPN3 -- you can watch it here), as the 16 teams learn their opponents for the 14th European Championship, which begins June 8 in Poland and Ukraine. Here are five notes to get you prepared for the festivities in Kiev:
• 2008 champion Spain seeks to be the first country to win consecutive Euro titles and to break the recent trend of struggling defending champions. France (2004) is the sole defending champion to advance past the group stage in the past four tournaments, and Netherlands (1992) is the only one to reach the semifinals in the past 30 years. The only two defending champs to reach the final are 1976 West Germany and 1964 Soviet Union.
• By lifting the World Cup in South Africa last year, Spain became one of three countries to win Euros and the World Cup in consecutive tournaments, joining West Germany (1972 European Championship and 1974 World Cup) and France (1998 World Cup and Euro 2000). All five previous world champions that qualified for Euros reached at least the quarterfinals, including Italy in 2008, and four of them advanced to the semifinals. Italy is the only reigning world champion that failed to reach the ensuing European Championship, finishing fourth in its qualifying group for the 1984 tournament.
• All nine previous European champions have qualified for Euro 2012, recognizing Russia and the Czech Republic as the ancestors of winners Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, respectively. The last time all prior champions qualified was two tournaments ago, in 2004. But big guns Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia all failed to reach the quarterfinals that year, as 150-1 longshot Greece pulled the most shocking upset in major tournament history.
• Ukraine is the sole debutant at Euro 2012; the co-host made its only World Cup appearance in 2006, and its narrowest Euro miss was losing a playoff to Slovenia for a 2000 berth. Fellow co-host Poland is making its second appearance, after debuting four years ago. Ireland is also participating for the second time. The Green Boys made noise in their previous tournament, upsetting England 1-0 in their opening match, though neither team advanced to the quarters.
• On the other end of the experience spectrum, Germany is making its record 11th appearance, including five berths as West Germany, with all 11 berths in a row. West Germany did not participate in qualifying for the first two competitions and finished behind eventual runner-up Yugoslavia in the group stage of preliminaries for the 1968 tournament. Since then, Germany has won three titles, most recently in 1996. The only other countries to win multiple titles are France (1984 and 2000) and Spain (1964 and 2008).
For more coverage, check out Albert Larcada's projections and analysis.