All four of the so-called "PIGS" (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain), who have either received massive bail-outs or look poised to get one, are among the 16 teams at the finals in Poland and Ukraine, which start on Friday. And although footballers are often criticised for living in ivory towers, shielded by sky-high salaries from the daily hardships of ordinary people, the fall-out from the deepening sovereign debt crisis and austerity measures has not passed them by.
Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque may have been characteristically direct when asked about the potential impact on the country were La Roja to retain the title they won in Austria and Switzerland four years ago. "Winning the Euros won't solve Spain's problems," he said gruffly after Spain's hard-pressed Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy visited the squad.
But midfielder Xavi Hernandez recognised that another tournament victory by the world champions could reap benefits -- if only for the national mood. "We're in the midst of a serious crisis and, in one sense, football is a good thing for it," said the 32-year-old Barcelona star. "If the national team is playing well then that can also have an effect on people's character.
"Let's see if we can provide some joy for the people." Spain have been drawn in Group C with the Republic of Ireland and another country in serious trouble, Italy, leading some wags to dub it "the group of debt". For Italy coach Cesare Prandelli it is obvious that Italians need something to smile about but that has been his mantra since he replaced Marcello Lippi following the Azzurri's humiliating first round exit at the 2010 World Cup finals.
Italy were world champions at the time. "I knew that the first thing I had to do was to bring the national team closer to the people of Italy again," said the 55-year-old, who quit Roma in 2004 after his wife Manuela was diagnosed with cancer and later died. "We are very privileged. Someone asking for a photograph or an autograph cannot possibly be a hassle."
Similarly, while he said he would have no problem in withdrawing the team from the competition in the wake of the latest match-fixing scandal to hit Italian football, he was equally clear about what a series of good performances could do. "We know how important football is to the people of Italy and some good performances by the team on the pitch can at least bring them some succour," he said.
Irish striker Shane Long, too, has seen how badly affected people in Ireland have been by cost-cutting, redundancies and home repossessions and is keen to do something special -- even in the smallest of ways. "There are tough times at home at the moment and it makes you appreciate how much effort people are going through to try to get out to Poland to support us," the 25-year-old said.
"I know even in Tipperary (Long's home county) there are a lot of people asking for tickets through Facebook. They are going out of their way to support us." Greek citizens have suffered the most from the European debt crisis. Fernando Santos is keen to give them something to smile about, with a second general election pending, the country's future in the euro in doubt and no end in sight to drastic cuts demanded in return for EU handouts.
Santos, who was criticised for receiving a massive 45 percent pay rise from the Greek football federation when he signed a new contract this year, said he is looking for passion and commitment from his players to lift a beleaguered nation. "What I want the Greeks to know is that we will bleed to succeed. We will give 100 percent for Greece. The fans should have faith in us," he said. "In all our matches we always strive hard and we always want to honour Greece and to bring some joy to a people who see joy now only through an eye-dropper."