France thrilled by Italy test in Euro 2008 draw
MONTREUX, Switzerland, Jan 27 (Reuters) - French federation president Jean-Pierre Escalettes was thrilled with his country's Euro 2008 draw, which pits the 2000 European champions against Italy and World Cup finalists Ukraine.
France, who defeated Italy with a golden goal from David Trezeguet in the 2000 final in Rotterdam, were also paired with Scotland, Lithuania, Georgia and the Faroe Islands in Group B.
'It's a beautiful group. We'll have some very nice games,' Escalettes told Reuters by telephone.
'It's the role of sport to offer people a good show. With games such as France against Italy, France against Ukraine and France against Scotland, fans will be happy.'
Italy coach Marcello Lippi, away watching the African Nations Cup finals in Egypt, was also pleased.
'It's a good group and will be hard-fought,' Lippi told Italian News Agency ANSA.
'But at the moment I find it difficult to think of anything apart from the World Cup in Germany.'
Greece coach Otto Rehhagel said he expected few fireworks after the European champions were paired with old rivals Turkey.
The nations were also drawn together in the same qualifying group for this year's World Cup -- both failing to advance to the finals.
'There is always a lot of emotion, but both matches were 0-0 and both were fair and clean,' Rehhagel told reporters.
Greece, who surprisingly won the title in Portugal in 2004, will also lock horns with Norway, Bosnia, Hungary, Moldova and Malta in Group C.
'The draw is not easy, but there are no teams that have qualified for the next World Cup and so I think our chances are good. We fear none of the teams,' added Rehhagel.
Germany keeper Oliver Kahn gave a cautious reaction after the World Cup hosts were placed in Group D alongside the Czech Republic, who they defeated in the Euro 1996 final, Slovakia, Ireland, Wales, Cyprus and San Marino.
'Obviously, Germany and the Czech Republic are favourites, to go through from this group, there's no question about that,' Kahn told reporters.
'But the way to Austria and Switzerland is not going to be all that easy. Wales, Ireland and Slovakia are awkward opponents and we'll have everything to lose against them.'
England, who reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2004, will have a new manager in place when qualifying begins in September 2006.
Sven-Goran Eriksson, who attended the draw, will exit his post as head coach after the 2006 World Cup, leaving his successor to plot a qualifying route through Group E which also features Croatia, Russia, Israel, Estonia, Macedonia and Andorra.
'Whoever it is will be happy with it (the draw),' Eriksson said.
Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas said the presence of Denmark and Sweden in Group F would make life tough.
'It is a pretty average draw for us and there are certainly some more difficult groups,' the Real Madrid player told a news conference.
Coach Luis Aragones said: 'I'm happy with the draw. Technically we are the best team, but it is up to us to ensure that technique prevails over physical strength.'
Serbia and Montenegro striker Mateja Kezman said: 'I think the draw gives us a fair chance of reaching the finals. We should be considered favourites to go through with Portugal.'
Borislav Mihailov, president of Bulgarian Football Union, said: 'There are no bad teams in Europe any more but I am glad we avoided England and the Scandinavian countries.'
'The Netherlands are the favourites to win the group. We have to battle with Romania and Slovenia for the second qualifying spot,' added the former goalkeeper, who led Bulgaria to the semi-finals of the 1994 World Cup.
Andrei Bal, one of the coaches with Ukraine, said: 'The group is a tough one and an evenly-matched one. If anyone thinks that France and Italy are hot favourites, let them think again. We will do everything we can to be there in the finals.'