Your guide to Euro 2012 in Wroclaw
Welcome to Wrocław, to Euro 2012, and to our one-stop guide to the city and the tournament.
On this page you will find all the information you need, about fixtures, teams, transport, accommodation, tickets, the stadium, help and advice, and Wrocław's cultural and historic backdrop against which the competition will be played out.
Wrocław is the industrial capital of Poland's Śląsk (Silesia) region, an area rich in natural resources and with a strong work ethos. It's just possible that workmanship on the football pitch could turn up a true gem in the city this summer. We're here to make sure you don't miss the moment.
Wrocław will host just three group games during the Euro 2012 competition, but won its right to do so thanks to a dynamic and robust bid that included the building of a new stadium in the city. As the capital of Silesia, it's a city that has long been associated with heavy industry, but in recent years has begun to build a reputation too as the host city of major European events. Clearly, the townsfolk here are not the kind to put all their eggs in one basket. The city itself has had a torrid history, changing hands several times. Is it now Polish, German, Silesian..? Of course, Wrocław is a city on Polish territory, but there are little things in the make-up of the locals, and those of the surrounding region, that suggest there is some degree of autonomy here, at least in thought; calls for a greater degree of self-governance for Silesia are regular, but have the character of coming from the vocal minority. For example, don't be surprised if you hear the German word 'ja' used instead of the Polish 'tak' for 'yes'. Although such linguistic peculiarities are dying out, there are still plenty of other words that you will not hear anywhere in Poland other than in Silesia.
In truth, it is probably the case that the real character of Silesia takes something from Polish, German and local culture. This is hardly surprising; by the time the 19th century was coming to an end, Wrocław itself was one of the largest cities in what was then Prussia, and was at the time called Breslau. This name is still remembered in the works of the modern crime writer Marek Krajewski, whose novels painting a gloomy and almost supernatural portrait of the city are incredibly popular in Poland. Krajewski is a Wrocław native, born and bred, so knows the city, its characters, its history and its quirks inside out. The German domination of Breslau was to continue right up to the end of the second world war. It was here that the Nazi forces in Western Europe had their last stand, fighting the advancing Soviet army and holding out for 14-weeks before finally raising the white flag on May 6 1945. After the war came a peculiar period in the city's history, which threw some of Northern and Eastern Poland's cultural heritage into what was already something of a melting pot. Wrocław became Wrocław as it was returned to Poland - and the Germans living there were thrown out. In their place came Poles from Lviv in Ukraine, and from Vilnius in Lithuania. These newcomers both set about building what was to become modern Wrocław, almost from scratch, and over the decades it rose again as a fully fledged urban centre.
As a 21st-century Central European cityâ¦ well, you can see for yourself. Tourists who come to Wrocław do so in large numbers, and with very good reason; it is not for nothing that the city has been named European Capital of Culture for 2016, so as well as building up to this summer's football tournament it is preparing to face the glare of the continent's media for quite some time. Visitors come for shopping, and for sport, for concerts, to see the beautiful cathedral and gardens,and night life. The most important of these this summer, to most minds, anyway, will be the European football championships. Sixteen teams, 31 matches, and only one victor. This is how it's going to look in Wrocław from June 8â¦
Friday June 8, 9.45pm
First Round, Group A
Russia v Czech Republic
Tuesday June 12, 7pm
First Round, Group A
Greece v Czech Republic
Saturday June 16, 9.45pm
First Round, Group A
Czech Republic v Poland
This is the group that the co-hosts will be watching closely, and the one which caused the most speculation and comment in the media when the draw was made. Much interest has of course been generated simply because this is Poland's group. This is a nation of football fans and even those who don't follow the Polish Ekstraklasa league are practically aching to see some kind of memorable performance from 'their boys'. Of course, there is also the prospect of taking on the old enemy - or one of the old enemies, at least; for group A pits Poland against Russia, and despite diplomats from both sides making the right kinds of noises, there is no lack of antagonism between the two. That's not to take anything away from either the Czech Republic or Greece, both finalists in this competition in recent memory, but all the attention will be on the two big games, between Poland and Russia. Only the Czech Republic will make their base in Wrocław, staying at Hotel Monopol, and training at Wroclaw Municipal Stadium.
As one of the host nations, Poland didn't have to play competitively to secure a place in this tournament. In fact, this is only the second time that Poland have played in the European championships, and given that they went out in the first round after losing 2-0 to Germany, 1-0 to Croatia, and drawing 1-1 with Austria and finishing last in the group, the fans here will be looking for a vastly improved performance. They have fared better in World Cup terms, qualifying seven times since 1938, and coming third in 1974 and 1982. Now they are ranked 68th in the world by FIFA, having climbed five places up the ladder in the past 18 months; but it might just be that statistics and historical performances are blown out of the window if the wind of national pride and expectation, combined with home advantage, play their part.
The Russians are a relatively new force in world football, having really come to national attention in 2008, when they reached the semi-final stage of the Austria-Switzerland hosted tournament and lost out 3-0 to eventual winners Spain. Their qualification for Euro 2012 was emphatic, having topped group B with seven wins, two draws, and just one defeat, amassing 23 points on the way. The only loss came to Slovakia (1-0), and Russia drew 0-0 with both Armenia and the Republic of Ireland. The victories were against Andorra (2-0 and 6-0), Republic of Ireland (3-2), Macedonia (1-0 in both matches), Armenia (3-1), and Slovakia (1-0). Their only victory in the European championship came way back in 1960, when Russia was playing as the Soviet Union.
It seemed, back in 1996, that everyone wanted the surprise finalists the Czech Republic to claim a historic victory over Germany. Everyone, that is, except the Germans, who fully expected to win it and went on to do just that. The Czechs did win the European Championships once, back in 1978, when they were playing as Czechoslovakia. To reach the finals of the competition this time around, the Czech Republic had to negotiate the qualification play-offs, having finished second in Group I, 11 points behind the group winners Spain. On paper, the play-off tie between the Czech Republic and Montenegro looked like a foregone conclusion for the Czechs. In fact, their win over two games was 3-0 on aggregate - with late goals in both matches securing their 2-0 and 1-0 victories. Though the attention of everyone but the Czechs is likely to be on the Poland-Russia clashes, neutrals would probably concede that it is the Czech Republic, not the home nation, that has the best chance of making it out of the group.
Nobody in the footballing world could quite believe what was happening on July 4 2004, when a stunned Portugal side collected not the European championship trophy but the also-ran medals. Greece, which had been given odds of around 150-1 before the start of the competition, had stolen the show with a single goal that wrote striker Angelos Charisteas into modern Greek legend. Nobody is expecting repeat performanceâ¦ but then nobody was expecting it eight years ago either - something that fans of all 16 nations competing in this summer's tournament would do well to remember. However, don't write them off. For, while Greece are not widely considered as championship material, they have certainly been holding their own in the run-up to the competition. They qualified direct from Group F, finishing two points clear of Croatia at the top of the table. En route, the Greeks had beaten Latvia (1-0), Israel (2-1 and 1-0), Malta (3-1 and 1-0), Croatia (2-0) and Georgia (2-1). They drew 1-1 with Latvia, 1-1 with Georgia, and 0-0 with Croatia.
Meet the locals
Unfortunately for Wrocław, the most memorable moment in its modern footballing history is a very black spot indeed. This was the 'ustawka' - an organised riot between fans - in 2003, in which one person died, 12 hospitalised, and more than 200 arrested.
But football in Poland, as in other nations, is a passionate sport; just as the English were rehabilitated into European club football after the dark days of the 1980s, so UEFA has accepted that Poland has dealt effectively enough with its hooligan problem to warrant it's co-host status of Euro 2012.
The local team is Śląsk Wrocław, an Ekstraklasa club with five trophies to its name. They won the Polish Cup in 1976 and 1987, the Ekstraklasa Cup in 2009, the Polish Super Cup in 1977, and the league in 1977. Playing in green and white, which carries a distinct red flash on both home and away strips, Śląsk Wrocław are now one of the main forces of Polish football, having finishing second in the Ekstraklasa in the 2010-2011 season. Their home, and the ground for the Euro 2012 matches, is Stadion Miejski, which boasts close to 43,000 seats.
Stadion Miejski is a brand new stadium that was built in the space of just two years, at a cost of almost 73 million złoty. It was designed and built by architects JSK Architekci, and stands at Aleja Śląska 1, within easy reach of all parts of the city.
Even before the Euro 2012 tournament started, Stadion Miejski had already come to the attention of connoisseurs of this kind of archicture. In fact, at the time of writing, it is up for the title of 'best stadium' in an international competition that has just 27 finalists. Possibly this is because the stadium combines a variety of uses, not just football, with facilities for shopping, concerts, commerce, office space and leisure.
At the business end, Stadion Miejski is a steel, concrete and fibreglass structure which can actually change its appearance - thanks to a clever lighting system - to suit whichever event is being held there. It stands 37 metres high, and the roof covers a total of 38,000 square metres. The seating, as at the other Euro 2012 venues, will be reduced a little for the duration of the tournament, so the stadium will be able to seat 41,500 fans. Of these, most are regular seating - but there will also be 100 spaces for disabled fans, 1,600 for business customers, and 500 in boxes. There's not much chance of becoming caught short either, as, unlike some older-style football stadiums, the toilet facilities are both state of the art and numerous. Naturally, fans will be offered the opportunity to buy merchandise and refreshments too; in fact, there's a food counter which is almost 300 metres long.
And, for the game itself, you will find that wherever you are seated, the view is fantastic. In fact, the minimum distance from the first row to the pitch is just under seven metres - so seats here come with the opportunity to offer advice and instruction to the player of your choice.
If you are flying directly into Wrocław, you can get a flight to Copernicus Airport from several UK cities and many more across Europe. There is a bus, number 406, direct from the airport - which was due to open a new terminal in early 2012 - to the city centre; or, you can hop into a taxi or hire car and get to the stadium itself in under 20 minutes thanks to the new motorway link, the A8.
Like the airport and motorway, Wrocław railway station has also been the subject of pre-tournament renovation, which was due for completion before the first match kicks off at Stadion Miejski on June 8. It's a great way to get to the stadium from the city centre, taking just a few minutes and three stops to make the journey.
Within the city, make the most of the bus and tram network which offers comprehensive coverage around the centre and environs. Take a look at the city's local information website if you want to plan your journey in advance, or expect to take some time sightseeing as well as watching the game.
Travelling onwards, perhaps to see games at other Euro 2012 venues, the Polish railway service has connections to the rest of the cities in Poland. Gdansk is 480km away, Poznan 145km, and Warsaw 302km. To get to the Ukraine, you're going to have to cross not just a border but a fair distance too. Lviv is 513km distant, Kiev 950km, Kharkiv 1,360, and Donetsk is 1,780km away.
Wrocław offers plenty of choice if you're dropping into the city for a game and just need a very basic bed for the night, or if you are planning to stay for the duration of the tournament and perhaps build a bit of a holiday into the trip too and are looking for a longer-term apartment or perhaps something right at the top end of the market. Although the city is not likely to physically run out of beds, it is worth remembering that the coming of Euro 2012 is just like any other event as far as market forces are concerned. It will push up prices for accommodation so you should book as early as possible in order to secure the best deals.
Hostels, hotels, apartments, single, double, triple, dorm or suiteâ¦ it might take a little patience if you're fussy about what you want, but persevere. And look out too for something new for 2012, as Poles cash in by offering their apartments for rent during the tournament. This last option may be too much of a hit and miss chance for some, but if you read the language check out Wrocław's local media online to see what's on offer.
For everything else, there's a one-stop service covering not just Wrocław but many other cities in Poland and across Europe. Visit the website at Freebookers, or email email@example.com for more information.
A total of 1.4 million tickets are available for the Euro 2012 competition, and there are a number of ways in which you can get your hands on them.
But first, a warning. By all means, visit Wroclaw to soak up the atmosphere and see games in the city's barsâ¦ but don't expect to be able to buy tickets at the stadium, and definitely avoid the touts that will inevitably put in an appearance. This latter point is important - not only will you pay massively over the odds and quite possibly end up with a fake ticket, but you probably won't get into the game. UEFA, the organiser of the tournament, has pointed out that it is the only body authorised to sell tickets to the games, in any form. This means that offers from other companies which do not have UEFA's blessing, including those selling travel, accommodation and ticket packages, are definitely not the real deal. UEFA said that fans should go through the official route to ensure their tickets are fairly priced and legitimate.
One of these routes is via the football association in your home nation. Each of the 16 qualifying countries has a UEFA portal for selling tickets. There are also UEFA licenced tour operators selling packages. In fairness, if you haven't already got a ticket, it might be a problem doing so. UEFA's ticket lottery is long-closed, but you might still have a chance via the official resale programme. If not, the official sponsors of the tournament run competitions offering tickets as prizes - certainly not a sure-fire way of getting to the match, but worth a shot if all else fails.
Help and advice
Football has always pushed emotions a little closer to the surface, and heated the blood by a degree or two. Most fans visiting Wrocław for the tournament will be there to urge on their teams and have high-spirited fun. All the same, it's as well to be aware of where you can get help if you need it. To summon emergency aid by telephone, call the European emergency line - 112. However, there's no guarantee that the operator will speak your language. You can also call Polish services direct, on 997 (police) 998 (fire) or 999 (medical). If you need help from a representative of your own country, or get into trouble during your stay in Wrocław, your first port of call should be your consulate in the city. Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and Ukraine are all represented in Wrocław. Finally, you can get medication for a variety of non-emergency conditions (including hangovers) at the chemists all over the city. Look for the Apteka signs, or call into any supermarket.
Kinga from Poland Reply
My colleagues keep asking about my hometown - I'll send them this link so I don't have to explain everything to them ;)
Ash from Poland Reply
Your account of the city would suit Katowice better than Wroclaw. Katowice is in Slask or Silesia and it is here that you will find people of mixed ethnic roots and mutated Polish and German language .Wroclaw is the capital ot lower Silesia . Katowice is the capital of upper Silesia and also a large coal mining and industrial area.
Hanah from United Kingdom Reply
Thanks, that's useful.