Euro 2012 ready for kick-off

After weeks of anticipation, speculation and debate, Euro 2012 gets under way on Friday when co-hosts Poland take on Greece in Warsaw.

The tournament sees 16 of Europe's best footballing countries compete for the Henri Delaunay Trophy, with the final taking place in Kiev on 1 July.

England start their campaign against France on 11 June - while Republic of Ireland are also in action.

There will be 31 games over three weeks, as Spain defend their title.

Eight stadiums across Poland and Ukraine are being used for the tournament, from the smallest in Lviv which holds just under 35,000 fans, to the colossal 70,000-seater Olympic Stadium in Kiev which hosts the final.

BBC Sport's pundits have backed Germany to win this time around, with only former captain Alan Shearer backing England to make the last four.

As well as France, Roy Hodgson's England will come up against Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine in Group D, while Giovanni Trapattoni's Republic of Ireland are in a tough group consisting of Croatia, Italy and defending European and world champions Spain.

Other fancied teams this time around are the Netherlands - who are in the 'group of death' alongside the Germans, Portugal and Denmark - while Russia could spring a surprise from Group A.

England - who failed to qualify for the last tournament in Austria and Switzerland four years ago - have never won the European Championship, with their best result in recent memory a semi-final defeat by Germany at Wembley in 1996.

Their build-up to the tournament this time has been hampered by the loss of several first-team players to injury and suspension.

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney will miss the first two matches of the tournament after he was sent off against Montenegro last year, while Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill and Gareth Barry all picked up injuries in the last few weeks.

As well as players missing out on the trip, the usual hordes of England fans may be absent after thousands of tickets were returned to Uefa.

The Football Association was given around 7,500 tickets for the games against France and Ukraine, and 9,000 for the Sweden fixture.

But only 3,000 tickets were sold through England's official membership group for each of the group games.

It is believed that the current economic climate, coupled with the high costs of travel and accommodation, have put many off, while after a Panorama programme highlighted incidents of racism in Ukraine.

All 31 matches will be covered on BBC Radio 5 live/5 live sports extra, with live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website.

Television coverage of the tournament is shared with ITV, with the tournament's opener between Poland and Greece live on BBC One and BBC One HD from 16:15 BST on Friday, 8 June.