Group A: Poland Ã¢ÂÂ It's Not All Fun & Games
From today, the Back of the Net boys will be counting down the days to Euro 2012 with team profiles and much more. To start with, Paul Watson starts with Group A's somewhat fortuitous top seeds, hosts Poland...
The lowest-ranked team in the competition, Poland arenÃ¢ÂÂt particularly good. Unlike the golden generations of the 1970s and 80s, todayÃ¢ÂÂs Poland team is full of players who will probably sign for West Ham.
Tournament PedigreeAustria and Switzerland 2008 was PolandÃ¢ÂÂs first European Championship and pitted them against Germany in a heated clash. As the hype ahead of the game grew, Polish paper Super Express printed a picture of coach Leo Beenhakker holding the severed heads of Michael Ballack and Joachim Low. The paper was widely criticised until it emerged that the photo was in fact real and had helped bring an end to BeenhakkerÃ¢ÂÂs terrifying bloodlust. Nonetheless, a depleted Germany still ran out 2-0 winners.
As is traditional, as hosts Poland were allowed to choose their group opponents and opted for Greece, Russia and the Czech Republic Ã¢ÂÂ a group so lacking in excitement that it doesnÃ¢ÂÂt even feature on most wallcharts.
Road to the FinalsPoland and Ukraine were chosen to host Euro 2012, beating bids from Italy, Croatia and Hungary and Crosby, Stills and Nash. The voters were said to be won over by the honesty of Poland/UkraineÃ¢ÂÂs slogan: Ã¢ÂÂA vast forbidding wasteland where terrible things have happened.Ã¢ÂÂ
Coach: Franciszek SmudaIt has taken staunch disciplinarian Smuda some time to fully eradicate the holiday-camp regime of libertarian former boss Leo Beenhakker. Disapproving of frivolity, Smuda has led a crackdown on anything he regards as nonsense, which includes nights out, drinking and passing backwards.
Artur Boruc was axed from the squad for a drunken night out, Slawomir Peszko and Marcin Wasilewski were dropped for an even drunker night out and Michal Zyro was only picked as a reserve after drawing a smiley face on his kit bag. Smuda is quoted as saying Ã¢ÂÂThe world has this image of us Poles as all fun, but that isnÃ¢ÂÂt the case.Ã¢ÂÂ
Did You Know?PolandÃ¢ÂÂs squad contains the most letters of any side in the competition. It takes coach Smuda anything between three and 10 hours to write his team-sheets, so donÃ¢ÂÂt be surprised if the Poles take the pitch with just eight or nine men.
More from Back of the NetGroup A: Poland Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Russia Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Greece Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Czech RepublicGroup B: Netherlands Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Germany Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Portugal Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Denmark Group C: Spain Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Italy Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Croatia Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Republic of Ireland Group D: Ukraine Ã¢ÂÂ¢ England Ã¢ÂÂ¢ France Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Sweden