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Euro 2012 Special

Aired June 8, 2012 - 16:00   ET


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: I'm Becky Anderson. Tonight with a special addition of Connect the World live from Poland for you as Euro 2012 kicks off here and in neighboring Ukraine. Football fans from across Europe are wearing their colors, teams taking to the field and we are going to get a sense of the drama that lies ahead.

Plus, I'm afraid some of that drama began before the opening whistle in the stadium behind me here in Warsaw. Dutch players of color saying they were racially abused this week. They're pointing the finger at the home fans.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Jim Clancy at CNN Center watching unfolding events in Syria. UN observers there have finally reached the site of an alleged massacre. And in Spain as the country struggles to save its stricken banks, rumors swirled a bailout could be eminent.

All right, a welcome back to Poland. As far as sporting events go, this is one of the biggest on the planet. Millions and millions of football fans focused on this country today as Euro 2012, the 14th European championship officially got underway. And fans, well they are going wild. For more than three weeks the top 16 national football teams in Europe will battle for supremacy, but the first final showdown on July 1.

We'll kick things off, Poland and Greece they played at the stadium behind me here. Their first match, well it was a 1-1 result, a draw that would be disappointing for the Poles, they'd have hoped to have won that.

And in the second game, Russia versus the Czech Republic. You've got the Russians up 2-1 in that game.

But amid all the excitement I'm afraid comes allegations of racism. The captain of the Dutch team says black players were taunted during an opening training match in Krakow on Wednesday. Poland and Ukraine hosting this European championship for the first ever time and sadly allegations of racism in both countries are nothing new. But Krakow and Warsaw here in Poland say a majority of the fans will be and are well behaved.

Well, joining me for the entirety of this next hour, the part of it here from Poland is Pedro Pinto, my colleague from World Sport. Before he and I talk I want to get you straight Ukraine today where CNN's Phil Black is standing by. The Dutch team who were training here on Wednesday -- the Dutch captain of course alleging racist taunts on Wednesday at that open training session are now in Ukraine. They have held a press conference earlier today. Phil Black has been monitoring that for you. And he's here with the latest.

Phil, what do we know?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Well, Becky, it is very clear that the Dutch team is now trying to put this whole incident behind them. In their own words they don't want to make a big deal of this. So they say they are not going to make any sort of official complaint about what happened in Poland, about the racial abuse that they say some of their players received. They say they want to get on with the tournament. But that does not mean that they do not take this seriously or they are not deeply concerned about what happened.

While not all the Dutch players and all the Dutch officials say they actually heard what was said and chanted. And they described it as monkey chants. The captain says he knows what he heard. He directed the players away to another side of the pitch where they were -- couldn't hear what was going on. And he's made it very clear that if this sort of activity happens during a match he will follow UEFA protocol, he will go to the match officials and ask if he can lead his players from the field.

Now here in Harka (ph) it has been inundated already with a great many of Dutch fans. I'm standing just near the fanzone in the center of the city (inaudible) about what happened in Holland. They are disappointed, but not many of them are shocked. They are all very clear when they say they don't want the Dutch feel to leave the field under any circumstances. They want them to play and win and they say that's the best way to come back at this sort of abuse, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah, absolutely. You're right. We don't want to see this ugly side of the game, very disappointing start to what is going to be one hopes a football fiesta.

Pedro, over the next three weeks I know that you talk to a number of very high level newsmakers as it were in the footballing world today about this very subject of racism.

PINTO: Well, it's the subject everyone on the ground is taking very seriously, Becky. Earlier today I participated in the launch of a new anti-racism campaign that will be in effect here during Euro 2012 from the fair network, football against racism in Europe. A lot of newsmakers were there, as you said. One of them was Gianni Infantino, the UEFA general secretary, and he told me that they're not taking this matter lightly at all.


GIANNI INFANTINO, UEFA GENERAL SECRETARY: What happened yesterday unfortunately in Krakow on the training camp of the Dutch national team is absolutely unacceptable. We condemn it firmly. We'll take all the operational measures that we can to avoid anything similar to happen. If somebody wants to go to a training camp and thinks he can do that, he will be taken by police and kicked out immediately.


PINTO: We all hope nothing similar happens in the future. It has happened in the past, of course. Unfortunately here in Poland, in eastern Europe.

I also spoke earlier today with a former Polish international who was born in Nigeria, Emmanuel Olisadebe. He moved here as a teenager and his first impact, his first experience of the Polish league was one to forget.


EMMANUEL OLISADEBE, FORMER POLISH FOOTBALL PLAYER: It was really heavy on me, you know. I never experienced something like that, like in the games where, you know, they make this monkey noises and throw bananas at you. And I also had the other black players on other teams, you know, they experience the same thing. You know, and I mean, in Poland it's there, the racism in football, but I think it's everywhere.


PINTO: Olisadebe admitting that racism has been there in Polish football. He added that he believes it's better now. And also said it's a global problem, not one just specifically that Poland and Ukraine are dealing with.

Former players have also gone through similar situations. They've been ethnic minorities. I got the thoughts of Ruud Gullit who of course lifted the European Cup in 1988 after the Dutch side one that competition. He played in Italy for many years. And back then there weren't many ethnically diverse players in action. And Gullit who of course is very close with the Dutch cap had this to say about the whole incident.


RUUD GULLIT, FRM. DUTCH PLAYER: Beforehand we already knew that that is a major problem in Poland and Ukraine. And people asking if it's wise, then, to point this tournament by UEFA to this country. And I say, yes it is, because it's an opportunity for these countries to tackle this. So Von Bommel helped also this issue to put it in the spotlight.


PINTO: And Becky I have to say that I really hope this tournament exposes this situation, because you can't resolve a problem if you don't admit to it.

ANDERSON: Yeah, no. I think you're making a very good point. I hope it exposes it, leaves it behind. We move on, not just the footballing world, but that whole world.

Now, stay with me.

I want to remind our viewers, for those of you who may not be football fans, and I'm sure there's very few of you out there, because I know millions and millions and millions of people are of course are, just why we should all care about this event being co-hosted by Poland and indeed by Ukraine. Here's why. It's quite simply one of the biggest sporting events on Earth. Europe's best 16 footballing nations do battle every four years.

Now Spain were the Euro Champions last time. They became world champions two years ago. If they won this again, this summer, that would be history. But in 2012, it's not just about what this tournament is, but where it is. It's the first time since the fall of Communism, that a major event is being staged in a stadium of former Eastern Bloc nations. Now that means it's important for host Poland and the Ukraine that issues around race and around politics do not, do not dominate this event. It's an exercise in global public relations. Well they need this tournament to be a success. They've spent lots of money making sure that it will be.


JOANNA MUCHA, POLISH SPORTS MINISTER: Four beautiful new brand new arenas, sport arenas, highways, motorways, four airports brand new absolutely new, renovated railway stations. So a lot, a lot of investments during this four years. And it will serve us for many years.


ANDERSON: Yeah, the view there of the sports and tourism minister who I spoke to a little earlier here in Poland making the point there that this is such a crucial, crucial tournament for Poland.

PINTO: It is, and not only from a footballing sense, obviously, from a cultural, a social point. I don't think these two countries have been in the public eye as much as they're going to be over the next 23 days. So they have to take this opportunity not only with tourism but to expose the very best that they have to offer. I saw people here in Warsaw and there's always tons of red and white. And you can really feel there's a lot of pride here.

Now even if the national team doesn't do particularly well...

ANDERSON: Which it didn't tonight.

PINTO: And it didn't today. And it's not really expected to go that far, the team, they still have to give the best that they have to offer.

ANDERSON: Yeah, you make a very good point.

Stay with me throughout this hour, of course, and we'll talk more about what's going on on the pitch, I hope, because the off the pitch story is a really despicable one. Let's try and get on the pitch for the next -- for the remainder of this hour and really talk what we expect to see out of what is a competition that is second only to the Olympics and the World Cup.

Jim is in Atlanta at CNN Center for you for the rest of the news this evening. That is coming up after this short break. Do stay with us.


CLANCY: Welcome back, everyone. You are with Connect the World. Becky is there in Warsaw. We'll get back to her in a moment. But meantime, UN monitors have finally reached the site of the latest massacre in Syria after being turned away by gunfire literally the day before. This is a video, and it's our first look at the observer team in the village of Qubeir. They're investigating reports that at least 78 people were killed there on Wednesday, including women and children.

Opposition activists pointing a finger at pro-regime militiamen. Special envoy Kofi Annan acknowledges that as UN backed peace plan for Syria is not working. He says it may be time to consider other options. He met with U.S. Secretary of State in Hillary Clinton in Washington today.


KOFI ANNAN, UN SPECIAL ENVOY TO SYRIA: Some say that my peace plan may be dead. They say the problem of the plan or the president's implementation. It's implementation (inaudible). And if it's the plan, part of the (inaudible)


CLANCY: United Nations monitors who visited the latest massacre site haven't yet given any comments to reporters, but we are already hearing some horrific accounts of what they found in Qubeir.

Arwa Damon is following that part of the story tonight from Beirut.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Jim, the UN monitors did finally make it to the village of Qubeir. And according to accounts from journalists who are traveling with them, they were able to at least get a sense of what took place there. They saw blood-stained floors, bloodied clothing, brain matter being splattered. They were able to speak to some people saying that they were survivors.

The images that were posted to YouTube well before the UN monitors arrived, though, are even more horrific. They are images of what allegedly took place there. Some of the most innocent victims. We do want to warn our viewers, though, that these are very hard to look at. And they are not suitable for children.

We do, however, feel that we should not sanitize what is happening in Syria, that it is very important to convey the extent of the brutality that is taking place there, although some of the images have been edited out, because it is still very critical to know what is taking place, and it is the children that are caught in the center of it all.


DAMON: The child's body lies nestled in a blanket, dried blood across his cheek. Other tiny lifeless bodies shrouded in white burial clothes. Chunks of ice and water frozen in bottles spread over them in an effort to slow decomposition. Some of the bodies have names.

Morha (ph) who lies next to his little sister, Shema (ph). Next to them, brothers Mohammed and Ali (ph).

This is the massacre of Qubeir, the voice says.

The children's mother and uncle also dead.

In other images, we are not showing, charred bodies, one of them apparently the blackened remains of a mother cradling her two children. Al-Qubeir is hardly more than a cluster of homes in the province of Hama. Opposition activists claim that at least 77 people were killed, nearly half the village's population. They say the slaughter was as a result of shelling by Syrian forces and to follow up the assault by Shabiha, pro- Assad Alawite gangs armed with guns and knives many recognize as coming from the neighboring villages.

The government says its forces responded to a cry for help and raided to save the population from a terrorist cell. UN monitors attempting to reach the village say they were turned back at checkpoints and even shot at along the road.

These are the images from a nearby town, (inaudible), also in Hama province. After activists say the town was bombarded for four days and then assaulted by ground forces. As government forces withdrew, the opposition claimed the Syrian military torched homes.

At the UN the obvious was stated, the cease-fire is not working. Most blame aimed at the Syrian government, outrage, but no action.

Driving the point home, video from Homs shot by the Arabic language network al-Arabiya, civilians caught in the bombardment. Don't be afraid, don't be afraid the man holding the little girl says as he hands he off, her cries echoing as she's carried away. They just reached the doorway when. A man shouts, look the child, the child as the area is pounded again. Wounded are frantically carried through, but the shelling is relentless.

Clearly seen in the video, members of the Free Syrian Army. Their light weapons flung across their shoulders, no match for the incoming artillery.

This dramatic video, another part of a patchwork of images and narratives emerging from Syria. The Syrian government continues to blame foreign backed terrorist gangs for the violence. And in a new twist, Syria's ambassador to the UN told the general assembly that these armed gangs are now using children.

Today it is the fear in the faces of children that define Syria, a Syria on the path to civil war with no apparent plan to save it.


DAMON: As joint envoy Kofi Annan himself said, unless something significantly changes when it comes to Syria we most certainly can expect more bloodshed, more massacres, and potentially a full blown civil war -- Jim.

CLANCY: We thank you very much for that. A late dispatch from the opposition in Syria reports, more than 30 people killed on Friday, fully half of them in suburbs of Damascus.

Well time now to head back to Warsaw, that is where Becky is sampling the Polish atmosphere following that dramatic opening game of the Euros -- Becky.

ANDERSON: That's right, Jim. Thank you for that. We're going to take a very short break here on this special edition of Connect the World. But when we come back, did Ukraine welcoming the world as co-hosts of the Euros, but will the whole world be shown the whole story? We're going to hear from the prime minister of Ukraine up next.


ANDERSON: A very warm welcome back. You're watching (inaudible) a very warm welcome back. You're watching a special edition of Connect the World live for you tonight from Warsaw in Poland.

We've seen the first game kick off in what is the Euro 2012 championship, a 1-1 draw for the co-host Poland with Greece. The second game now well underway between Russia and the Czech Republic. Let me update you on the score. At about 79 minutes through that game the Russians lead 3-1 against the Czech Republic, an updated score out of what is the opening day here at the Euro 2012 championship.

Well, as co-hosts of these championships Ukraine is a nation you'll understand with a lot to prove. The families of two England footballers have refused to travel there for fear of racist attacks. There are also allegations of corruption hanging over the government in Kiev.

We're going to get the very latest on the story out of Ukraine for you. Your correspondent Phil Black standing by there -- Phil.

BLACK: Hello, Becky.

Yes, well as well as problems with racism and there have been allegations of corruption, sliding democracy, and what the international community is calling selective justice. While thousands of people here in the center of Ukraine are enjoying the start of the tournament, on the outskirts of the city in a hospital room with metal bars on the ninth floor windows, the former prime minister of this country Yulia Tymoshenko is in hospital undergoing treatment for that fact.

Her conviction and imprisonment for allegedly abusing her powers while in office has inspired many, or a number of European leaders to boycott Ukraine during the tournament. When I put those leaders concerned to Ukraine's prime minister his response was they don't know what they're talking about.


BLACK: This is the Euro 2012 fanzone in Central Kiev. It's been a last minute effort to get it ready for the start of the championship. On the same street, you'll find a much more established fan site. This camp is dedicated to fighting for the freedom of Ukraine's jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Tymoshenko was found guilty of abusing power while in office. But these people, along with European governments and the United States believe Tymoshenko and other politicians are really being locked up for opposing Ukraine's president Viktor Yanukovych.

Every morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every morning when I'm here I do this.

BLACK: Mykola Azarov is Mr. Yanukovych's political ally and Ukraine's prime minister.

The view of Europe, other countries, and indeed many Ukrainians is that your president and his government is using his country's judicial system to eliminate political rivals. Why shouldn't they believe that to be true?

MYKOLA AZAROV, UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): It's not the best thing for serious politicians to give a conclusion based on what they read in newspapers.

BLACK: This country has a notorious reputation for corruption and public suspicion has grown as the Euro's planning budget has soared to around $6 billion.

BORYS TARASYUK, OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER: There are some views, analytical views that at least one-third of this state money budget, money comfortably settled in the pockets of those in power.

AZAROV (through translator): No doubt we have corruption. We are fighting it. Many of our opponents made a huge attempt to discredit Euro and Ukraine have exaggerated this problem.

BLACK: Some European governments have issued warnings for people to be careful about racist violence in Ukraine. Charles Asante-Yeboa says it's good advice. He's lived here for 14 years and runs an African community center.

CHARLES ASANTE-YEBOA, PRESIDENT AFRICAN CENTER, KIEV: There have been violence against people of African descent, or let me put it people who look like me in Ukraine, in (inaudible).

BLACK; You've been speaking to some Ukrainian football fans who say they have never been to a football match in Ukraine because they fear physical attack because of the color of their skin. Surely that is an embarrassment for a country that is about to host an international football tournament.

AZAROV (through translator): Lately, huge campaign absolutely unreasonable accusations was directed against Ukraine. We would like people to come over and see the situation with their own eyes. We don't have a racism in our country.

BLACK: The Ukrainian government has many critics, but they all agree with the prime minister on one point -- they want the world to enjoy the best of Ukraine during Euro 2012, but they also believe it's an opportunity for visitors and viewers to become better informed about the country's problems.


BLACK: Becky, Ukraine has always been a controversial choice to co- host the games. And those concerns have only increased as the country has struggled to prepare. But those who are most critical of the government, of the problems here, genuinely believe that this sporting event and the attention that it brings, can achieve political and social Europe -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yeah, let's hope so. All right, Phil, thank you very much indeed for that.

As we keep you up to date on the stories both on and off the pitch at Euro 2012, an update on the score in the Russia-Czech Republic match. In the 81st minute, the Russians now scoring another goal, so up 4-1 against the Czech Republic. That's not yet a result, but 4-1 the score stands in what is the second game here at Euro 2012, the first of course earlier today in the stadium behind me. That was Poland-Greece. And the score at the end of play in what was a very exciting and controversial game it must be said for there 1-1.

All right. We're going to take a very short break here on this special addition of Connect the World. Coming up, the Euros, well they started with quite a bang. Find out what happens when host Poland took on the former champions Greece.

And playing for a place in history. We talk to the Spanish side hoping to do something football has never seen before.

CLANCY: And Becky while they may be counting goals where you are, in Spain they're counting the debts. A storm is brewing, pressure mounting for the country to save its debt stricken banks. Could a bailout be imminent? We'll ask next.


ANDERSON: A very warm welcome back to this special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson on a very warm evening here in Warsaw in Poland for the kickoff of the Euro 2012 footballing tournament.

We're going to have a roundup of all the action both on and off the field a little later this hour. First, to Jim Clancy, my colleague, for your headlines.

JIM CLANCY, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Thanks, Becky. Well, Spain could ask for a bailout, and it could come as early as tomorrow. The country is struggling to raise tens of billions of dollars trying to save its stricken banks.

While financial markets react to the rumors, the Spanish government says it will not take any action until it receives an evaluation from the IMF on Monday. CNN's Al Goodman is in Madrid.


AL GOODMAN, CNN MADRID BUREAU CHIEF: News reports say a rescue plan for Spain's beleaguered banks could come as early as Saturday. The reports say finance officials from the 17 nations that use the euro as currency, including Spain, Germany, France, and Italy, would hold a conference call on Saturday to discuss a rescue plan.

That prompted a spate of denials and "no comments" from various European capitals. The Spanish government doesn't want to call any rescue plan a bailout, and it says all the talk is premature.

SORAYA SAENZ DE SANTAMARIA, SPANISH DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Once we know the exact amount of how much our financial system needs, then the government will announce its decision. I tell you, there have been no decisions taken about anything. We have to respect the process to first wait for the figures that will come from the different evaluators.

GOODMAN: Spanish banks are stuck with billions of dollars in bad real estate loans. Various financial institutions and analysts already estimate the banks may need at least $50 billion to clean up their books. Some analysts say the Spanish government would rather have a bank rescue than a full bailout for Spain and its sovereign debt problems.

Al Goodman, CNN, Madrid.


CLANCY: Well, looking on from nearby, European stocks closed lower on Friday. Optimism over the future of the eurozone turned swiftly to anxiety. Madrid's principle index was the only market to finish the day ahead, this despite a downgrade of Spain's debt rating by Fitch on Thursday.

Here's a look, now, at some of the stories that are connecting our world tonight.

US president Barack Obama accused the Republicans in his country of pursuing policies that would weaken the US economy in a special news conference held at the White House.

He also turned his attention to Europe. With rumors swirling that Spain will call for a bailout within days, the US president says it's time for European leaders to do something about the debt mess.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the short term, they've got to stabilize their financial system, and part of that is taking clear action as soon as possible to inject capital into weak banks. Just as important, leaders can lay out a framework and a vision for a stronger eurozone, including deeper collaboration on budgets and banking policy.


CLANCY: In Pakistan, 19 people killed, dozens wounded after a bomb ripped through a bus in Peshawar. The explosion there, according to police, was as the bus was carrying government employees home from work. The region's information minister declared it a terrorist act.

No progress. The UN's nuclear watchdog saying now the talks with Iran today were a disappointment. The IAEA had hoped to convince Tehran to allow inspectors greater access into controversial nuclear sites. Matthew Chance has more on today's meeting in Vienna.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, these are the sixth set of talks this year between UN inspectors and Iranian officials, aimed at answering some of the questions about the possible military dimensions of the country's nuclear program.

Much of the focus this time has been on gaining access to a military site near the Iranian capital, where it's suspected that explosive tests may have been carried out, tests that may have been part of an Iranian weapons program. Iran, of course, denies that it has anything but peaceful nuclear ambitions. But it has been dragging its feet on granting access to the site at Parchin.

There are also standing requests from the UN to interview Iranian nuclear scientists, see documents related to nuclear work, and other logistical matters. So far, very little progress has been made. But as international pressure builds and the sanctions against Iran begin to bite, that could very well start to change.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


CLANCY: To New York, now. A Manhattan judge sentencing the notorious Jamaican drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke to 23 years in a federal prison. Last August, Coke entered a guilty plea to charges of racketeering conspiracy. He admitted he ran a drug and gun trafficking organization that involved more than 200 people.

Australian officials forcing two Olympic swimmers, take down those pictures of themselves posing with guns on Facebook. Those were the images that were taken by Nick D'Arcy and Kenrick Monk in a gun shop in Santa Clara. The swimmers apologized for any offense and said it was all just meant as a bit of fun. Well, some didn't think so.

Back now to Becky. She's in Warsaw with all the latest from Euro 2012. You have an update for us?

ANDERSON: That's right. And we've just got a result out of the Russia/Czech Republic match, 4-1 the result in that match to -- in favor of Russia. So, 4-1 the result in the Russia/Czech Republic game, one-all the result earlier on for co-host Poland against Greece.

Pedro and myself are going to have a good old chat about what's been going on on the pitch and what you can expect coming up in the next couple of days in what is one of the biggest sporting events on the planet. That up after this.


ANDERSON: Well, the eyes of millions and millions of football fans around the world squarely here on Poland today as the co-hosts kicked off the first match in the stadium behind me here in Warsaw against Greece to launch what is one of the biggest sporting events on the planet.

And what a result that matched turned out to be. We had everything. We had red cards, we had missed penalties, we had the lot. In the end, it was a disappointing result for the Poles, one-all against the Greeks. You'd have expected Poland probably to have won that.

Have a listen, before I talk to Pedro, here, just have a listen to what some of the fans said after they left that match.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was one round disappointing for us, for the Polish team, but we expected a little bit more from them because the opening game. But what can we do? It's football, and we play in the tournament and hope to beat Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are a little bit frustrated. One-one is not a good score for us. So, good to have a different score, like one-nil. That's what I can say. I'm sad. I'm in -- maybe not fully have satisfaction could be better. Should be better.


ANDERSON: Understatement, there. Could be better, I think should be better is much better. Listen, they'll also be incredibly distraught, those Polish fans, when they find out that the Russians have just -- their arch-rivals, of course, have just beaten the Czech Republic in the same group, 4-1. What a day.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It was. It was a day. We've waited four years for this first Euro 2012 opening match, and I have two words for you, as far as Poland is concerned. Missed opportunity.

ANDERSON: Yes, absolutely.

PINTO: They played with one more man after Greece had a man sent off early on in the match for a while. They should have capitalized. In the end, they were lucky, Becky, because Greece missed a penalty. They could have left Warsaw's National Stadium having broken the hearts of all the Poles because a defeat would've just been too much to take.

ANDERSON: And a remarkable story, the Polish keeper, of course, gets sent off. The Polish substitute keeper comes on. The first thing he does is saves a penalty from the Greeks, who effectively would have won the match.

PINTO: It's strange because I talked to a couple of Polish fans, and they're very religious here, and the goalkeeper came on, he did the sign of the cross, and then he saved the shot. So, a lot of Poles are saying, "God helped us out today."

ANDERSON: Four-one to the Russians against the Czech Republic.

PINTO: Yes. That was what we expected. The Czech Republic aren't that strong. The team that they have now has nothing to do with the one that made the final back in 1996, and the Russians are an underdog that we should look out for.

I spoke with Peter Schmeichel, the Great Dane that won the title in 92, and he said if there's one team you should look out for, it's the Russians. And they proved that with a big win today.

ANDERSON: Absolutely. All right. Well, that's -- that's Group A, of course. Group B, the matches kicking off tomorrow. That's a group of death.

PINTO: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. It's been called that ever since the draw late last year, Becky. If we can run through the matches that we'll have in Group B on Saturday, two big ones, matches that could be the final of the tournament. We have Germany versus Portugal and also the Netherlands are taking on Denmark. Netherlands, of course, losing the World Cup final in South Africa to Spain.

And talking about the reigning World Cup champions, the reigning European champions, they're in action on Sunday taking on Italy, La Squadra Azzurri for you, Becky. Croatia and the Republic of Ireland also playing on Sunday.

Last but not least, two huge rivals also clashing, England and France --


PINTO: I'm sure you'll be nervous about that.


PINTO: Sweden and the other co-hosts, Ukraine, will take to the pitch. Those matches on Monday. So, a lot of action to look forward to.

ANDERSON: You referenced the Spanish, of course, who are reigning world champions at present. It would be quite an historical feat if they pull this one off, as well.

PINTO: It would. No team has ever won three major tournaments in a row. Let's take a closer look at what they call La Roja.


PINTO (voice-over): Spanish football is in its golden era. By winning Euro 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Spain became only the third team in history to hoist these trophies back-to-back. No national side has ever won three major tournaments in a row. But can La Roja rewrite the history books?

IKER CASILLAS, SPAIN CAPTAIN (through translator): I think this one might be the most difficult of all, because in the first title, you have the excitement of something new. The second one, there is work, effort, and the knowledge that we have done it before.

Now, the third one will be the hardest because winning three international championships in a row is something no one has ever achieved before.

ANDRES INIESTA, SPAIN MIDFIELDER (through translator): It's a beautiful challenge, but a very tough one, as well. We will do our best. Spain has been playing very well, so I hope we can keep it going.

PINTO: Spain is seen by most as the favorites to win Euro 2012, and it's easy to see why. They won all of their qualifying games for the tournament, and their statistics since their title-winning cycle began in 2006 are simply sublime.

La Roja's record in competitive matches over the last six years reads played 48, won 42, drawn 2, and lost just 4. That translates to a winning percentage of 87.5.

If there is one factor that may hurt their chances this summer, it's injuries. David Villa, the national team's all-time leading scorer and inspirational defender Carles Puyol are both sidelined. Still, the captain believes that in their absence, other players will step into the limelight.

CASILLAS (through translator): Well, I think our group is more or less the same, although we had some last-minute setbacks with Puyol and Villa. But there is the reappearance of David Silva, who was our main player at first for a few years. Then, he disappeared into the background, and then became a main player again.

The truth is, some players have appeared bit by bit, while others have grown and developed a lot more as footballers.

PINTO: Experts agree, David Silva is definitely one of them. Fresh off winning the Premier League title with Manchester City, many believe he can become a key player for the national team. The same can be said about Cesc Fabregas.

BEGONA PEREZ, SPANISH JOURNALIST: I think Silva will play a key role. We can't forget Fabregas. He's having a great contribution at Barcelona this season. Even if he doesn't start all the games, but both Silva and Fabregas, they are playing a new aspect of the team, which is a full striker coming from the midfield to its core.

PINTO: Whether it's Silva, Cesc, or some of the more established national team stars, like Javi and Andres Iniesta, who shine, one thing is for sure: Spain will be there or thereabouts. Recent history has shown that.


PINTO: Well, the Spanish national team will be looking to make up for the disappointment of Real Madrid and Barcelona, who both lost in the Champions League semifinals. A lot of quality still there.

ANDERSON: I love you sitting on the fence. "They'll be there or thereabouts."

PINTO: Well --


ANDERSON: Well, you missed the chance backing a win.

PINTO: It's close. If they're not there, then I said thereabouts, right?

ANDERSON: All right, fair enough. We have three burning questions, and this is the reason I'm teasing him, here. Three burning questions for you, viewers, and those questions are simply this: who do you think is going to win this tournament? Who do you think will be top goal scorer? And who do you think will be a flop in this tournament?

It's one of the reasons that I'm teasing Pedro about the Spanish team because we've all put our reputations on the line, as it were, answering those questions. After the break, we're going to hear from you. We've been tweeting about this all day. We've had an awful lot of response from you guys out there.

So, three burning questions. Who do you think's going to win the championship? Who do you think is going to be top scorer? And who will be a flop? More on that after this.


ANDERSON: All right, welcome back to this special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson for you in Warsaw in Poland where tonight at the stadium behind me, we saw a kickoff for what is the Euro 2012 championship. The 14th European championship tournament.

Now, all day, we've been tweeting and hearing from you on tweets about who you think the champions of this tournament will be, who you think top scorer will be and, indeed, who you think might be an absolute flop in this tournament.

Had a lot of response from you and expect to hear from you -- continue to hear from you as we move through the next three weeks. But let's get some of those that we've heard already.

We've got Fernando Torres, has been voted by CNN's own Piers Morgan as the most likely flop of the tournament. Nothing to do with Arsenal-loving Piers having a bias against a Chelsea star, perhaps.

Elijah in Nigeria has a completely different take. He's picked Torres to be Euro 2012's top scorer, interesting from Elijah, there.

Pakistan as for who will win Euro 2012, Umar Sheik in Pakistan thinks the Netherlands will grab the title. I've got to say, I've got to agree with him on that.

Do have your say. You can tweet me @BeckyCNN. Your thoughts, please, @BeckyCNN, WorldSportCNN, of course, @PedroCNN. Any of us, tweet any of us, and tell us what you think is going to be the likely outcome on those three burning questions. Pedro.

PINTO: I like the pause on my Twitter account. Well done.

ANDERSON: Did you like that?

PINTO: Yes, all the time.

ANDERSON: Excellent. In fact, don't bother tweeting him. I'll tell you what, my love. And I say Holland for the championship --


ANDERSON: I say Robin van Persie for the leading scorer, and I say -- I say Torres, probably flop, because there were so many expectations about him, but he's had a horrible season at Chelsea. Or, as a team, I say the Italians.

PINTO: I say you're wrong.


PINTO: I'm going to go with Germany lifting the trophy in Kiev on the 1st of July.

ANDERSON: All right.

PINTO: I think Karim Benzema, the French striker --

ANDERSON: All right.

PINTO: -- will be the top scorer.

ANDERSON: Which means they've got to go a long way.

PINTO: They do --

ANDERSON: The French, right?

PINTO: -- have to go a long way. I think they can do that. They're quite underrated, haven't lost in 21 matches --

ANDERSON: OK, good point.

PINTO: -- leading up to the tournament. And the flop, Arjen Robben. I think long season, he's tired, tough loss in the final of the Champions League to Chelsea. A lot of people are expecting a lot of him, I'm not.

ANDERSON: All right. OK. That's Pedro's prediction. You've heard my prediction. Let's find out who else is predicting what will happen in this tournament apart from you guys out there who we insist will tweet us, we insist that you do do that as the tournament continues.

We've had a few other hopefuls giving the prediction industry a bit of a shot. While the last World Cup, of course, saw Paul the Octopus giving it all a go, this year, a bevvy of psychic beasts, it seems, are also throwing their all in, as it were. Jonathan Mann reports.


JONATHAN MANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Remember Paul, the seemingly psychic octopus? During the last World Cup, he won worldwide attention by correctly predicting the winning of eight matches in a row, including the final. The underwater phenom retired after the Cup and, sadly, died a few months later.

But now, there's a bevvy of beasts looking to take Paul's place for Euro 2012. Among them, a pair of dragon fish in Singapore.

Big Huat and Little Huat made their picks for Thursday's match between Poland and Greece, the big fish chose the food canister indicating a draw, while the little guy picked Poland. The more accurate of the two will get to pick the finals, while it's feared the loser could wind up as sushi.

A Polish pachyderm also went with the home team. This is Citta, the Krakow Zoo's enormous oracle. They say an elephant never forgets, but how is she at forecasting a football match? Presented with three melons to choose from, Citta pointed to Poland. Her handlers say she was right about another big match earlier this year.

FLIP SZATANIK, SPOKESMAN, CITY OF KRAKOW (through translator): We tested Citta in many cases. We did it starting from the Champions League game on May 19th. She was right then, and we hope she isn't wrong this time.

MANN: In Ukrainian capital Kiev, a big pig named Khryak is trying to hog the spotlight. The allegedly telepathic porker may not be pretty, but in a sense, he's already a winner. Regardless of his record on the pitch, organizers promise to keep Khryak out of the local butcher shop.

And not far away, in the Ukrainian town of Kharkiv, local officials introduced Fred the Ferret. They say their fuzzy football forecaster is cuter than the rest. We'll have to wait and see about the accuracy of the animals in their push to replace Paul. We'll keep you posted.

Jonathan Mann, CNN, Atlanta.


ANDERSON: Was Paul the Octopus ever right?

PINTO: He was.


PINTO: Right in the end, nearly every time.


PINTO: That was really freaky, I think.

ANDERSON: Yes. No, I know.

PINTO: There's a -- I'll tell you what. There's a lot of flies, spiders around here, as well.


PINTO: Maybe we'll get them to predict some results after we're done tonight.


PINTO: How about that? Sorry.

ANDERSON: It has been a warm evening here in Warsaw in Poland. Sadly, some of the off-the-pitch action today really taking the shine off what really ought to be a tremendous tournament going forward, second only as a sporting event to the World Cup, of course, and to -- what's the other one? The Olympics.

PINTO: The Olympics, yes.

ANDERSON: Which are, of course, kicking off in London in a couple of months' time.

Listen, we're going to take leave of our senses, as it were. We're going to leave you to the rest of the CNN output going forward. I'm Becky Anderson, joined tonight by Pedro Pinto here in Moscow (sic). Your world news headlines are coming up after this very short break. It's been a delight to have you. Stick with CNN for the entire Euro 2012 championship. Good night.

PINTO: Good night.