England will take the long road to Euro 2012 glory after Fabio Capello ruled out changing their training base despite being dumped in a group as far away from Krakow as possible.
With two matches in Donetsk, the opener against France on June 11 and a concluding Group D encounter with hosts Ukraine eight days later, either side of a June 15 trip to Kiev where they will face Sweden, England face journeys totalling 5,000 miles in the group stage alone.
Two more trips to Donetsk may follow in the quarter and semi-finals should England make it that far, with the final in Kiev on July 1.
It could turn out to be the equivalent of a return trip to Kolkata, a quite staggering expedition, and completely needless.
Yet Capello, who chose a city centre location in Krakow after an extensive search ended with the Italian adamant his side would prepare best in Poland, is not entertaining any thought of a change.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I am happy with Krakow.
“When we played in Ukraine, we arrived the day before. That was a long trip from London.
“When we played Montenegro we did the same.
“I prefer to play in Krakow because the facilities are really good.
“The players will be happy with the hotel and the training.”
Geography apart, Capello has nothing much to grumble about.
By the time Pot Two was drawn, it was already apparent Group A, containing Poland, Greece and the Czech Republic was the easiest section, Group B – Holland, Portugal and Denmark – by far the hardest.
It was Dick Advocaat’s Russia who got lucky, Germany who pulled the short straw.
And while a reunion with old friend Giovanni Trapattoni would have been enticing, it is more fitting the 72-year-old gets to send his Republic of Ireland side into battle with Italy, after meeting tournament favourites Spain.
“It was terrible waiting but when we passed Group B I was happy,” said Capello.
“All the games will be difficult. France are a really good team. We beat Sweden two weeks ago but they are really hard to beat and have very good organisation.
“I know Ukraine because we played them in qualifying for the World Cup, and they host the tournament, so the supporters will be right behind them.
“It will be the third game and that will be really important.”
Important because it is the only one Wayne Rooney has a realistic chance of being available for.
Currently, the Manchester United striker is suspended from all the group matches following his red card in Montenegro.
However, he will leave United’s team hotel in Basel next Thursday morning to take the short trip to Nyon, where he will plead his case and hope UEFA’s disciplinary chiefs look kindly on the 26-year-old and reduce his ban by a match.
“The appeal will be really important and I hope Rooney will be okay for the third,” said Capello.
“I hope they understand our lawyer, what Rooney says and what I will say at the committee.”
Asked directly whether he would take his star man anyway, the Italian’s response was brief.
“Yes,” he said.
Capello was equally direct when asked if he might be persuaded to stay on beyond next summer, even if England have performed well and the alternative candidates do not appeal.
“No. I hope my last tournament will be something really important for the fans,” he said.
Now this particular wait is over another begins.
Within minutes of the draw concluding, the Football Association confirmed Holland will visit Wembley on February 29, a fixture that had been dependent on the pair not being drawn together.
It will be the only time Capello sees his players until they gather at the end of the season, by which time who knows what state they might be in.
Being in Group D offers the advantage of starting the tournament last, offering the potential for three extra days’ rest that could prove vital. “I am not more confident,” he said. “I have always got confidence when I start. After the draw, I have confidence also.
“But when we arrived together before the World Cup and played those friendly games, I understood something wasn’t good.
“The young players playing now will be more important with their energy but this will be a really tough tournament.
“Every game will be difficult because the level of European football is really high. Every team can beat the others. But we will try.”
France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris believes England will be the team to catch in Group D.
“England are one of the biggest nations in football. They’ll start as favourites in the group,” said the Lyon player.
“Behind England, Ukraine, Sweden and France will fight for second place.”
The Republic of Ireland, appearing in the championships for the first time since 1988, will open against Croatia in Poznan on June 10. Yet it is the games against Spain, winners in 2008 and World Cup victors in South Africa last year, and 1968 champions Italy which will most excite their fans.
Trapattoni’s men will travel to Gdansk to face Spain on June 14 and return to Poznan to play Italy four days later.
The Republic, currently ranked 21 in the world, will be one of the tournament’s outsiders, but Trapattoni was upbeat after the draw and pleased to be facing his native Italy.
He said: “I am happy. It is impossible to say which group was better because we know our position, the ranking.
“We have to think in football that all is possible. We have to play with the same mentality – obviously all the teams are very difficult. But I am confident.”
n No sleepless nights but hectic days await England: Page 28.