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EURO team camps: 31 May

Published: Thursday 31 May 2012, 19.25CET
Our latest updates included an aspiring goalkeeper undaunted by his family history, a trip to the dentist for Mario Balotelli and a Russian prodigy looking to make a name for himself.
EURO team camps: 31 May
Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano look on during training ©Getty Images
 
Published: Thursday 31 May 2012, 19.25CET

EURO team camps: 31 May

Our latest updates included an aspiring goalkeeper undaunted by his family history, a trip to the dentist for Mario Balotelli and a Russian prodigy looking to make a name for himself.

UEFA EURO 2012 begins in eight days and all 16 finalists are applying the finishing touches to their pre-tournament preparations. UEFA.com has reporters assigned to every team involved who will provide daily updates from the camp.

England (Andy James, @UEFAcomAndyJ)
Frank Lampard's worst fears were confirmed this afternoon as the Chelsea FC midfielder was ruled out of UEFA EURO 2012 with a thigh injury sustained in training on Wednesday. The 33-year-old, who had intimated the tournament could be his final chance to shine at the highest level, underwent a scan which confirmed the damage was too severe for him to take part in any group stage matches.

England coach Roy Hodgson, already shorn of fellow midfielder Gareth Barry to injury, described the loss as a "huge blow to me and the team" and is set to call up Jordan Henderson from the standby list, subject to the Liverpool FC youngster passing a medical of his own.

Spain (Graham Hunter, @UEFAcomGrahamH)
It was a detail amongst the goals, convincing football and impressive performances - but the defeat of South Korea was Vicente Del Bosque's 54th match in charge of La Roja. During his time he has won the FIFA World Cup but he, and the players, acknowledge the immense, culture changing impact of Luis 'Zapatones' Aragones, the man who led Spain to the UEFA European Championship title four years ago.

He, too, coached Spain exactly 54 times and there are some interesting stats to go with their records. Spain now score more - 132 compared to 99. But they defended better under Aragones, 32 conceded compared to 39 under his successor. Del Bosque leads on victories, 45/38 but the key thing is that each has been a winning coach. Firm, too.

Reacting to fairly firm hints that his new central defensive partnership, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué may not always supersede their Real Madrid CF/Barcelona FC rivalry, Del Bosque was crystal clear and very firm. "If they lack any understanding I will oblige them to find it," he said. "They are young guys, they've had their moments but I think they handle themselves well off the pitch and there is harmony."

Italy (Richard Aikman, @UEFAcomRichardA)
'Mal di pancia' (stomach-ache) is the oft-used Italian phrase for when a player is unhappy at his club, but today it is 'mal di dente' or toothache that is bugging striker Mario Balotelli. There is of course no suggestion that Balotelli is unhappy with his lot. Far from it, in fact, considering he was handed the No9 shirt when the squad was announced on Monday.

But the Manchester City FC striker's discomfort was such that he missed this morning's gym session at Coverciano in order to pay a visit to the dentist. Super Mario should feature in Friday's encounter against Russia in Zurich, and who knows, perhaps even with a gold tooth.

Greece (Vassiliki Papantonopoulou, @UEFAcomVassP)
Greece face Armenia in their final friendly match this evening and coach Fernando Santos is preparing changes in the wake of injuries to Vasilis Torosidis and Sotiris Ninis. Sokratis Papastathopoulos is expected to deputise at right-back, while Dimitris Salpingidis will fill the void on the wing. 19-year-old forward Kostas Fortounis will also be handed a starting berth for the first time.

For Santos, it is an opportunity to assess those on the periphery of the team. "We want to see how the players fare in our experiments," he said. "I am very happy with the preparation so far. We have worked a lot on tactics and I hope that I will witness the team's improvement against Armenia."

France (Matthew Spiro, @UEFAcomMattS)
France made the short journey from Le Touquet to Reims this morning ahead of tonight's friendly against Serbia. Laurent Blanc has promised to make changes to the side that defeated Iceland on Sunday, and many expect him to experiment with the formation too. With Yoann Gourcuff allowed to leave, and Samir Nasri so far unconvincing in a central attacking role, Les Bleus are likely to line up without a conventional playmaker.

In last night's training session, Blanc tried out a three-man central midfield of Florent Malouda, Yann M’Vila and Yohan Cabaye. Franck Ribéry and Nasri were used on the flanks, with Karim Benzema the lone striker. In defence, Gaël Clichy, Anthony Réveillère and Laurent Koscielny are set to get chances to impress.

Russia (Richard Van Poortvliet, @UEFAcomRichVP)
He may be Russia's youngest player at UEFA EURO 2012, but Aleksandr Kokorin already has big plans. Team-mate Roman Shirokov says the 21 year-old has the potential to be "one of the finds of the tournament" and the FC Dinamo Moskva forward is itching to get going. "I will try to live up to everyone's expectations," Kokorin said. "I just want to get on the pitch to show everyone what I can do and try to prove that I am worthy of a place in the team."

Kokorin is something of an anomaly, being only one of two players in the squad under the age of 25, alongside Alan Dzagoev. It consequently comes as no surprise that Russia will represent the oldest team at the tournament with an average age of 28. It is something coach Dick Advocaat believes could work in their favour. "I hope our experience will help us," he commented.

Denmark (Thomas Mark, @UEFAcomThomasM)
It is a name that has forever enriched the history of Danish football. But living up to his father's reputation is not something that fazes goalkeper Kasper Schmeichel, who has become a popular figure since replacing Thomas Sørensen in the Denmark squad.

"Luckily Kasper is the kind of person who stays true to himself," said former Under-21 coach Keld Bordinggaard. "Therefore he should not be judged by his father's history but of his own. For this I can't praise him enough because it's a heavy burden to bear."

Meanwhile, Nicklas Bendtner is desperate to prove himself on the international stage. "This summer is important to me," said the 24-year-old. "EURO is a nice place to start and I believe that it will definitely have an impact towards where I will play in the coming season."

Germany (Steffen Potter, @UEFAcomSteffenP)
Germany will look to erase the memory of their 5-3 defeat by Switzerland when they take on Israel in Leipzig this evening. Coach Joachim Löw is expected to name a strong lineup with Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker, Holger Badstuber and Jérôme Boateng set to form a formidable back line. 

"Even though you can't expect much from friendlies, we want to win, of course, and boost our confidence ahead of the tournament," said captain Lahm. In midfield, Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira could partner Bastian Schweinsteiger, if the FC Bayern München playmaker recovers from a calf injury. 

Czech Republic (Ondřej Zlámal, @UEFAcomOndrejZ)
Today marks 50 years since the opening game of Czechoslovakia's run to the 1962 FIFA World Cup final and nine of the runners-up from that famous team will attend the Czech Republic's final warm-up game against Hungary on Friday. They will bid the current generation a symbolic farewell ahead of their UEFA EURO 2012 campaign.

Meanwhile, the news from the camp still relates to the ongoing fitness concerns surrounding captain Tomáš Rosický, with team physiotherapist Pavel Kolář saying: "We cannot offer definite answers – it is not possible to say that Tomáš will play for certain. We will decide next week when an agreement between the coach and Tomáš must be reached."

Croatia (Elvir Islamović, @UEFAcomElvirI)
Midfielder Niko Kranjčar says it is time to measure up as Croatia gear up for Saturday's last warm-up match against Norway in Oslo. "It will show us how every player is looking and if we are keeping to the game plan ... but the most important game comes on 10 June – we are all aware of that," Kranjčar told Sportske novosti. He added: "I would by lying if I told you I don't want to play. Every player here thinks they can bring something to the team, but we need to play as a team to achieve anything."

Netherlands (Berend Scholten, @UEFAcomBerendS)
After losing their first friendly to Bulgaria on Saturday, the Oranje bounced back with a 2-0 win against Slovakia last night. The match started badly, though, when John Heitinga and Wilfred Bouma clashed heads, with the latter taken to hospital to be examined after the first half. Both players, however, have been cleared of any lasting damage. "I had a big bump above my eye after the first minute," said Heitinga. "But I am happy with the victory , it is good for our confidence."

Wesley Sneijder also went off with an ankle knock, but first impressions were that it did not seem serious. For Rafael van der Vaart, the injury to Sneijder was the chance to prove himself in the No10 position. He seized the opportunity with both hands, scoring once and hitting the woodwork. "Every minute I see as an opportunity," he said. "The coach has always chosen Wesley in my position, so I have not played there a lot lately. When you start on the bench, you always hope to be given enough time to be able to prove yourself.  Luckily that happened."

Republic of Ireland (Garry Doyle, @UEFAcomGarryD)
Those who believe footballers are cynical, have obviously not met Stephen Kelly. The defender has rallied around the unfortunate Kevin Foley, who narrowly failed to make the cut for the 23-man-squad who will travel to Poland on Monday.

"Your heart goes out to Kevin," said Kelly. "He's been in the squad for so long and to miss out is very tough on him. You would be inhuman not to feel some sort of remorse about it. It was a credit to Kevin that he came back and played the second half (in Tuesday night's game against a Tuscan XI). We've rallied around him and let him know that it's not the end of things."

In fact, it is just the start for an Irish team growing in confidence ahead of the Group C opener against Croatia on Sunday week. Unbeaten in 13 games, morale is remarkably high despite the ill fortune that has befallen Foley, the injured Keith Fahey and James McCarthy, who made himself unavailable due to his father's illness.

"Stuff like this brings you closer together," Kelly said, "because you kind of realise how fragile the whole thing is. We are a really, really close team and we all get on so well together." Kelly and his team-mates resumed training today after Wednesday's rest day. They travel to Budapest on Saturday ahead of Monday's friendly with Hungary before moving on to their EURO base in Gdansk.

Italy (Richard Aikman, @UEFAcomRichardA)
The squad was in high spirits yesterday as the players posed for team photos at Coverciano with striker Fabio Borini adopting an unfamiliar shaven-headed look after a bet with AS Roma team-mate Daniele De Rossi that he would lose his locks should he make the final cut, so to speak. Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Giancarlo Abete also took the opportunity to announce the opening of the new 'Casa Azzurri' – Italy's famous home from home at major football tournaments since 1998.

The 2012 building has been constructed in Krakow, where Italy will be based for the tournament, with journalists invited to attend the Azzurri press conferences (not to mention partake of the delicious Italian food on offer there) and Italy fans just as welcome to come and view the Italian products on offer from Italian sponsors. As for footballing matters, Giorgio Chiellini is expected to use Italy's friendly against Russia in Zurich tomorrow to test his troublesome thigh.

Portugal (Andy Brassell, @UEFAcomAndyB)
Paulo Bento yesterday named his five 'captains' of Portugal, though there is no doubt Cristiano Ronaldo should wear the armband when the team open their UEFA EURO 2012 Group B campaign against Germany in nine days. There is, however a clear chain of succession should the Real Madrid CF forward be unavailable at any stage.

The experienced quartet of Bruno Alves, Raul Meireles, Nani and Pepe have been chosen not just to cover any absence, but to provide leadership and support. "These players were chosen because they're experienced and know what's best for the national team," Ricardo Quaresma said. "I think they were good choices." Pepe revealed his delight at being chosen. "I feel very proud at being one of the captains," he told newspaper O Jogo. "Naturally I'm very happy, because Portugal have always had great captains. For me, it's an honour."

Poland (Alex O'Henley, @UEFAcomAlexO)
The Polish Football Association (PFA) has designated tomorrow Children's Day (as 1 June is in Poland, with youngsters invited to watch the national team training at the Legia Warszawa Stadion from 17.00CET, hopefully creating a sea of white and red. "This is special day for children and we want to give them a gift," said PFA press officer Agnieszka Olejkowska. "We want the national team to be close to them on this special day. Come and watch the best Polish players in action."

Before then, the players will gather at their hotel in Warsaw this evening following two days' rest. Some are expected to arrive later tonight, with Ludovic Obraniak due in at 21.40 and Eugen Polanksi and Sebastien Boenisch an hour later.

Spain (Graham Hunter, @UEFAcomGrahamH)
It is all suddenly about Fernando Torres again. The Chelsea FC striker opened the scoring in last night's 4-1 win against South Korea, heading in his 27th goal for Spain. That takes him level with Fernando Morientes in fourth in Spain's list of all-time scorers, behind Fernando Hierro (29), Raúl González (44) and the injured David Villa (46).

"Fernando is pretty euphoric right now," Vicente del Bosque said of the man who this month lifted the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League and now profiles as starting striker for the defending European champions.

"I'd like to move clear and finish, at worst, behind Raúl and David, in the scoring list," said Torres. "When you doubt your place and then, suddenly, you are involved it really reminds you about what you value and how good it is to be back with team-mates like these."

England (Andy James, @UEFAcomAndyJ)
I managed to take a look at England's home for the duration of their tournament, the prestigious Hotel Stary, on my first venture into Krakow city centre yesterday. Located in the Old Town and just a stone's throw from the main square, the boutique abode is a far cry from the Three Lions' remote base camp in Rustenburg at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

There will be no complaints of boredom between games with a multitude of cultural and culinary delights on their doorstep. The team will train at the recently redeveloped Hutnik Stadium, located a 20-minute drive east.

Ukraine (Boris Popov, @UEFAcomBorisP)
The everyday training routine of Ukraine has been flavoured by the visit of UEFA's chief refereeing officer, Pierluigi Collina. Former AC Milan forward Andriy Shevchenko stepped in as an interpreter, a role he performed spotlessly.

Collina pinpointed that no mercy would be given to rule breakers and, for example, every strike with the elbow will mean a direct red card; the same goes for illegally-executed sliding tackles. After the seminar, the team applauded Collina before switching focus to preparing for tomorrow's friendly against Austria in Innsbruck.

Sweden (Sujay Dutt, @UEFAcomSujayD)
"It was a Zlatan show," said Emir Bajrami as he reflected on last night's 3-2 friendly victory over Iceland. Zlatan Ibrahimović took centre stage in Gothenburg, relishing the free rein he was given in a deep-lying role. He broke the deadlock inside two minutes with a volley and his clever dribble and cross teed up Ola Toivonen to double the advantage. Former Sweden boss Lars Lagerbäck, now in charge of Iceland, was also impressed, saying that "Zlatan is extremely good at the moment."

The Sweden squad will have more time to dwell on that performance over the next 24 hours as, following coach Erik Hamrén's daily press conference at 10.00CET, they departed to their own corners of Sweden for some family time. They will reconvene in Stockholm on Saturday.

Last updated: 07/06/12 16.25CET

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