Euro 2008 teams arrive to a warm welcome
Local fans gather at Vienna airport on Monday to get up close and personal with national teams arriving for the European Championship.3 June 2008
VIENNA - World champions Italy were one of six Euro 2008 teams to arrive at their bases Monday to begin final preparations for the tournament in Austria and Switzerland.
With five days before Saturday's kick-off, half the 16 finalists had arrived by Monday, and many gave local fans a first close-up look at players at training sessions opened to the public.
There were warm welcomes for the first teams arriving in Austria, including Italy whose arrival at Vienna airport attracted a large national and international media interest.
Before heading to their base 30 kilometres away at Baden, the Squadra Azzurra was welcomed by Italy's ambassador to Austria, Massimo Spinetti, as well as Friedrich Stickler, the president of the Austrian Football Association, the Austrian press agency said.
Their arrival at their hotel at the spa town of Baden south of Vienna was quieter, drawing more interest from photographers trying to sneak a shot of the team over a two-metre security fence erected around their hotel.
Schloss Weikersdorf, a Renaissance castle converted into a hotel, will be tightly guarded by police and private security services during the Italians' stay.
Baden, a spa and health resort south of Vienna, has gone to great efforts to welcome the world champions, with local businesses stocking up on Italy-themed fan items, hoping for a boost in tourism.
The Czech Republic squad flew into Innsbruck for their journey to Seefeld 30 kilometres away where a reception included a guard of honour from local schoolchildren, a brass band and furry pigs - a symbol of good luck - for coach Karel Bruckner and the players.
Co-hosts Switzerland in Feusisberg and Austria in Stegersbach established their team bases, while Poland arrived at Graz airport for a trip to the thermal spa resort of Bad Waltersdorf, and the Romania squad set up their camp at the Swiss mountain resort of St Gallen.
Speaking at the Austrian base, coach Josef Hickersberger said the quarter-finals were the minimum for his team despite the co-hosts seen as the weakest team in Group B, up against Germany, Croatia and Poland.
"We definitely want to reach the quarter-finals. If we want to do that, we have to make four points against Croatia and Poland, that is the prerequisite," he said.
Portugal and Turkey, who are Group A opponents, were on Sunday the first teams to check into their team bases in Switzerland and both were holding open training sessions Monday evening.
Spain will be the last of the 16 finalists to arrive when they check into their Tyrol headquarters on Thursday. By UEFA rules, teams must arrive at their team bases five days ahead of the first games.
[dpa / Expatica]