1 year, 0 months, 0 weeks, 0 days. Exactly one year from today, on Friday, June 8, 2012, at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland, UEFA EURO 2012 will officially begin with Poland playing a team to be decided in the opening match. The 16-team tournament will conclude on Sunday, July 1, 2012, at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, with the Final match. On April 18, 2007, in Cardiff, Wales, Poland and Ukraine were surprisingly chosen as hosts of the European Championship. The soccer delegacies from both nations leapt in joy in a historic moment at the announcement ceremony. Neither country has ever organized a major sports tournament of such caliber as the European Football Championship.
The opening ceremony will be held before kickoff to the first match in Poland’s capital. The closing ceremony is scheduled before the first whistle for the Final. For Poland, this tournament carries an important meaning economically and athletically. The eventual revenue generated from such a big tourney—stadium tickets, hotels, airfare, tourism, etc.—will be humungous. The Polish nation will be swarmed with a mass influx of over tens of millions of dollars. Also, because of the partnership with Ukraine, political ties between the two nations will strengthen. The only possible— but severe—downer to Euro 2012 may be the national team disgracing the country. Poland’s national team is playing very poorly. At next year’s big tournament, the team will have the spotlight on the big stage. Poland has lately been a team that does not like the spotlight or mounting pre-tournament pressure, as evidenced by two first round World Cup exits and an early exit from the last European Championship. In 2012 the same is likely to happen again, as Poland will face European opposition that may turn out too tough to overcome. This is shameful and nothing reminiscent of the glory days in Polish football dating back to the 1970s. Poland’s only hope for Euro 2012 may be to try and clone players from the 1974 World Cup roster, which was responsible for taking third place.
The Ukrainian national team is in a similar situation as the Poles—weak playing. Although Ukraine made it to the quarterfinals of World Cup 2006 (where it lost to eventual champion Italy) it has not been to any other major tournament before or since. Its key playmaker from that tournament, the phenomenal Andriy Shevchenko, has announced that he will hang up his boots following Euro 2012. Hmm, perhaps that will serve as extra motivation for the 34-year-old to play even better than at Germany 2006. Certainly, regardless of how well Sheva performs, he will need to be aided by his teammates, especially Voronin and Tymoshchuk. With a lucky draw on December 2nd, Ukraine may have a decent chance of emerging from the group phase and advancing to the quarters. Same goes for Poland too, of course, and even especially….
The Polish-Ukrainian tournament will be artistic and colorful thanks to its mascots. Slavek and Slavko were named as official Euro 2012 mascots six months ago in Kiev following the result of a poll of almost 40,000 people. The Polish mascot—Slavek—wears a white jersey numbered 20 with red outline. His Ukrainian twin—Slavko—wears a light blue-colored jersey with yellow trim that is numbered 12. The numbers 20 & 12 combined together make 2012. Slavek and Slavko are two versions of the same name. The two brothers have spiked hair and are about the same height. These young brothers, who can play football very well, were introduced as part of special presentations before the Poland-Ivory Coast and Switzerland-Ukraine international friendly matches, both on November 17, 2010.
Two months ago we found out that there was an enormous demand for UEFA Euro 2012 tickets, as 12,149,425 requests were made by fans around the world. This total is an all-time record for the European Football Championship. It is also an increase of over 17% from Euro 2008. Maybe Euro 2012 is shaping up to be the best European Championship ever?!
Since Michel Platini’s big announcement, there have been readiness concerns as to whether Poland and its eastern neighbor can finish all construction in time for the huge event. Markian Lubkivskiy, Ukraine tournament director, recently stated, "Our main enemy is time but I’m sure we’ll manage," adding "The tournament is not in any danger." Let’s hope that he’s right about the latter, because with so many fans putting in ticket requests, it shows a worldwide interest in the tourney and also signifies that people want to visit Poland and Ukraine for the elegance of those nations.
Fans are optimistic that everything will run smoothly from this point onward. As the clock ticks away, Euro 2012 will be getting ever so closer. With that said, let’s hope that the hosts can make it in time and stage an unforgettable tournament. The world awaits….