WARSAW: Poland take on Greece in the opening match of Euro 2012 in Warsaw on Friday, with organisers hoping talk will switch to events on the pitch, after a turbulent build-up of political strife and infrastructure concerns.
Franciszek Smuda’s side play the showpiece opener of the 16-team tournament in front of a 50,000-capacity crowd at the newly-built National Stadium after an opening ceremony promising to mix sport and culture, heritage and innovation.
The first Group A match at 1600 GMT, plus the second between Russia and the Czech Republic in the western city of Wroclaw at 1845 GMT, are the first of 31 games in eight venues in the two eastern European nations.
Holders and world champions Spain and beaten Euro 2008 finalists Germany are overwhelming favourites to play each other again in the final match in the Olympic Stadium in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on July 1.
Euro 2012 is the first time that European football’s most prestigious international tournament has been held behind the former Iron Curtain and UEFA governing body president Michel Platini admits it has been a rocky road.
“It’s often said that the most difficult births lead to the most beautiful babies,” he told AFP in an interview in March, amid concern about delays in key transport and infrastructure projects plus spiralling costs, particularly in Ukraine.