The wait is over. We now know what lies ahead for everyone in Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. After Friday afternoon's draw in which all 16 teams were divided equally, we now can concentrate on the games on the pitch.
POLAND, GREECE, RUSSIA, CZECH REPUBLIC
Greece will be again looking to hoist the trophy, as it did unexpectedly in 2004 in Portugal. Since that historic victory, Greece has won its first World Cup game in 2010 and is now currently ranked 14th in the world, according to FIFA.
Greece qualified for Euro 2012 by winning its group on the last day of qualification. Greece outlasted Croatia, Georgia, Israel, Malta and Latvia. During their qualification, Greece got more and more comfortable under their new coach and finished unbeaten in the group.
Here are things you should know about Greece before they open the tournament against host Poland on June 8.
Captain: Georgios Karagounis (M)
Goalies: Alexandros Tzorvas, Stefanos Kapinos, and Kostas Chalkias
Defense: Loukas Vyntra, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Avraam Papadopoulos, Vasilis Torosidis, Giannis Zaradoukas, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Jose Hobelas, Gianis Maniatis.
Midfielders: Sotiris Ninis, Ioannis Fetfatzidis, Kostas Katsouranis, Alexandros Tzolis, Georgios Fotakis, Thanos Petsos
Forwards: Georgios Samaras, Dimitri Salpagidis, Theofanis Gekas, Stefanos Athanasiadis and Apostolis Vellios
You have a solid mix of young players and veterans. Georgios Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis were on the 2004 winning team and will provide leadership to help the team.
Defensively the team is led by Sokratis Papastathopoulos. The 6'3" central back makes his presence know on the field. Vasilis Torosidis can play anywhere in the backline and in midfield if called upon and has a knack for getting key goals (game winner against Nigeria in WC).
Youngsters Ninis, Fetfatzidis, Vellios and Athanasiadis will be key for the team's success. Ninis will be called upon to be the main attacker from the midfield. Fetfatzidis will probably be used off the bench to change the style of play. Vellios and Athanasiadis will provide more speed upfront and each has a knack of finding open spots to make things happen.
In goal, Alexander Tzorvas is the No. 1 but will be pushed by 17-year old Stefanos Kapinos. The former teammates have each made their mark on their club teams. Tzorvas is the No. 1 for Palermo and Kapinos has taken advantage of his chance and has not missed a minute since.
wont see him early
If your group doesn't include Germany, Spain, Italy, England, Portugal and the Netherlands you were lucky. Luckily for Greece, they avoided all these potential favorites and were drawn into a very competitive group that includes Poland, Czech Republic and Russia.
This group is wide open. Any two teams can advance. All will believe that they should advance to the knockout stages.
Poland is one of the host nations. Only one host nation has not made it to the knockout round.
Russia is trying to make a name for themselves after not qualifying for the World Cup in 2010.
The Czech Republic is another former champion that is looking to show that time has not passed them by.
Russia 13th, Greece 14th, Czech Republic 32nd, Poland 66th.
Greece opened the 2004 European Championships against host Portugal and came away with a 2-1 victory, signaling to the world what was to come. It took Greece just seven minutes to find themselves in the lead against Portugal when Georgios Karagounis picked up a mistake by the Portugal defense and slotted the ball to Ricardo from about 40 meters out.
They extended the lead just six minutes into the second half when Angelos Bassinas calmly converted a penalty kick to make it 2-0. The shocked host team was at a loss. Throwing everyone and everything at the Greek defense, Portugal eventually got themselves on the scoreboard, but it was too late. Greece won 2-1.
Greece got off to an early start and opened group play with win. The victory in the opening match allowed them to qualify for the knockout stage and eventually win the championship.
If Greece repeats what it did in 2004 with a victory against Poland in the opening match, they will be giving themselves a great chance to get into the knockout portion of the tournament.
haven't we meet already
Greece and Russia are no strangers to each other. They have been drawn together for the third straight European Championship. Russia defeated Greece 2-1 back in 2004,which was Greece's only loss in the tournament.
In 2008 Russia again defeated Greece. The 1-0 victory by Russia ended Greece's chances of a repeat, and the loss ended the international careers of several key players from Greece's 2004 team. Players Antonios Nikopolidis, Stelios Giannakopoulos and Angelos Basinas all retired from the team following the tournament.
In November 2011 Greece and Russia renewed their friendly rivalry in Athens. The game, which was just a tuneup for them as they get ready for June 2012, finished in a 1-1 draw. Neither team had anything to play for.
Poland played Greece in Athens back in March of 2011. The game finished in a scoreless draw. Greece started with a mix of bench players and starters as they got ready for their qualifier against Malta. For Poland, the game marked the final game for Michal Zewlakow in a Polish uniform, at the home of his former club team Olympiacos.
Greece and the Czech Republic have played twice in their history. They met in the semifinals of Euro 2004 when Trianos Dellas kicked his golden goal in the 119th minute, which gave the Greeks a stunning 1-0 win and sent them to the finals. The Czechs had dominated that game until the extra time, where Greece finally showed some life.
The rematch was held one month later in Prague as both teams began to start with World Cup qualification for Germany in 2006, ending in a scoreless tie.
Overall Records: (since 2004)
Greece vs Poland 0W 1 T 1L
Greece vs Russia 0W 1T 2L
Greece vs Czech 1W 1T 0L
Fernando Santos took over Greece's national squad in August of 2010. Since then the team has qualified for the Euro 2012 and has only one loss in his first 18 games as manager, an incredible run for a team that was supposed to be in decline after the World Cup.
Greece is a new team under Santos, being more offensive-minded in his 4-3-3 system that allows players to be themselves. Under former coach Otto Rehagel, Greece had a hard time scoring goals and concentrated more on stopping than creating goals. That system has gone out the window under Santos, and he has stressed to his team to focus more on the offensive side of the ball.
Greece will still look to get most of their scoring chances from set plays. With several good free-kick takers in Sotiris Ninis, Georgios Karagounis and Georgios Fotakis, Greece will use their height to attack the opposition. Theofanis Gekas knows how to score goals against all competition.
Back in 2004, Greece had a 10-game unbeaten streak before going to Portugal. After losing their first two qualifiers to Spain and Ukraine, Greece rebounded to win their remaining six games and win the group.
In Euro 2010 qualifying, Greece tied their first two matches but were able to win the group after beating each team at least once. Fernando Santos has been able to right the ship and get them moving in the right direction after stumbling out of the gate.
Game 1 vs. Poland
Getting points against the host will be hard for all three teams in this group. Greece will get the first crack at it. I think Greece does enough to keep Poland at bay and walk away with a valuable point against Poland.
Game 2 vs. Czech
Czech had a hard time in qualifying but rebounded to outclass Montenegro and advance to the finals 3-0. Greece will need to find away to beat Petr Cech. Easier said then done, but I think Greece finds away to walk out with a 1-0 win.
Game 3 vs. Russia
I think Greece will need a point to advance through. Having already seen them play each other earlier, Greece should be able to walk away with the point they need, Neither team has a real advantage against each other on paper.
Poland 2W 1T 0L 7pts
Greece 1W 2T 0L 5pts
Russia 1W 1T 1L 4pts
Czech 0W 1T 2L 1pts