The draw for soccer's second-largest and second-most prestigious tournament after the World Cup was held Sunday in the Pavilhao Atlantico at Lisbon and produced some intriguing matchups as powerful neighbor was pitted against powerful neighbor.
When the 2004 European Championship kicks off in June, England will find itself facing cross-channel foe France in the first round; Germany will be battling its longtime rival, the Netherlands; and host Portugal will square off against its next-door neighbor, Spain.
The 16-nation tournament, to be played June 12-July 4, will begin with four groups of four as follows:
Group A: Portugal, Greece, Spain, Russia.
Group B: France, England, Switzerland, Croatia.
Group C: Sweden, Bulgaria, Denmark, Italy.
Group D: Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, Netherlands.
After round-robin play in the first round, the top two teams in each group will advance to the quarterfinals, when knockout play begins. The final will be played July 4 in the new 65,000-seat Stadium of Light at Lisbon.
Euro 2004 will open with host Portugal playing Greece, and the Greek team's German coach, Otto Rehagel, liked that idea.
"It is an advantage to us," he said. "The hosts are always under a huge amount of pressure in the first game, more than in other games, and we will be under no pressure at all. Psychologically, that is very important for us."
Portugal is coached by Luis Felipe Scolari, who led Brazil to the 2002 World Cup. He was pleased with the draw.
"You cannot choose your opponents," he said, "and we cannot say that any here are worse than the others. We have to accept the teams included in our group. We are in the middle of 16 great teams, and our aim is to get as far as we can and ultimately win the championship. That is what we are here for."
Jacques Santini, coach of defending champion France, said the game against England will be "kind of derby because there are so many French players in the [English] Premier League."
Italy Coach Giovanni Trapattoni was relieved rather than delighted.
"For Italy [the runner-up in Euro 2000], it was very important to avoid France and Portugal because it would be psychologically difficult to meet the hosts and France as they are the [defending champions]," he said. "I'm glad to avoid Germany and the Netherlands."
Dutch Coach Dick Advocaat called Group D "very difficult."
"There is a big rivalry between Holland and Germany," he said, "and it is up to us to show that we can beat them [and] the Czechs as well."
Chelsea moved to the top of the English Premier League standings when it won, 1-0, at Manchester United on a 28th-minute penalty-kick goal by Frank Lampard. Chelsea's owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, flew 400 friends from Russia to see the match. Arsenal dropped into second place after a scoreless tie with fourth-place Fulham and Manchester United remained third.... Cruzeiro defeated Paysandu, 2-1, in front of 70,000 in its home stadium at Belo Horizonte to win the Brazilian championship for the first time. An early goal by 1994 World Cup winner Zinho and a late one by Mota were enough to give Cruzeiro Coach Vanderley Luxemburgo his fourth national title after he won with Palmeiras in 1993 and 1994 and with Corinthians in 1998.... Cruz Azul and Toluca secured the final two places in the Mexican league quarterfinals at the expense of UAG and Guadalajara, respectively.
Times wire services contributed to this report.