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By Paul Radford
KIEV Dec 2 Traditional rivals Germany and
Netherlands will lock horns yet again at the Euro 2012 finals
next year after the two neighbours were drawn together on Friday
in the toughest group of the 16-nation tournament.
The two will play each other on June 13 in the Ukrainian
city of Kharkiv in Group B, which also includes two other
difficult-to-beat western European nations, Portugal and
The tournament, being co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, will
open on June 8 in Warsaw when the Poles take on 2004 champions
Greece. Russia and Czech Republic are also in Group A which has
a distinctly eastern feel.
Soccer's two Mediterranean super-powers and old rivals
Spain, the world and European champions, and Italy will meet
each other in an intriguing first game in Group C on June 10 in
the Polish port of Gdansk. Croatia and Ireland will be outsiders
in that section.
The final group comprises the other co-hosts Ukraine, who
will have to play England, France and Sweden in Group D, which
looks like a tougher proposition than their fellow hosts face in
The draw was conducted by UEFA general secretary Gianni
Infantino at Kiev's Palace of Arts before a crowd of invited
guests and soccer celebrities.
He was assisted by four former European champions, Zinedine
Zidane of France, Dutch ace Marco Van Basten, Danish goalkeeper
Peter Schmeichel and German striker Horst Hrubesch.
The fierce rivalry between Germany and Netherlands dates
from the first competitive fixture, the 1974 World Cup final
when Germany came from behind to beat the Dutch, hot favourites
that year, 2-1 in Munich.
It was compounded when Van Basten and co took on and beat
Germany 2-1 in the 1988 Euro semi-finals in Hamburg, going on to
win the title in Munich, of all places.
Germany coach Joachim Loew said: "It is the most difficult
group of all. It will be very challenging but it's good that we
start with a tough group like that."
Dutch team chief Bert van Marwijk agreed it was the hardest
group. "It will be a very big challenge," he said.
Spain beat Italy on penalties in the quarter-finals of the
2008 tournament staged in Austria and Switzerland which they
went on to win. The two have met 29 times in all with Italy
winning 10 times to eight for Spain.
The 2012 finals will be the third to be co-hosted.
It will be played at four stadiums in Poland -- Warsaw,
Gdansk, Wroclaw and Poznan, and four in Ukraine -- Kiev,
Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lviv.
UEFA and Ukrainian soccer chiefs said on Friday they had
feared at some points that Ukraine would not be able to stage
its part of the 31-match tournament because of stadium and
infrastructure delays and difficulties.
But Infantino told a news conference he was now confident
the tournament would be a success and that all tickets would be
Euro 2012 will be the last tournament to be staged with 16
teams. The tournament expands to 24 nations at its next edition
in 2016 in France.
(Editing by Mark Meadows; To query or comment on this story