Ukraine

Metalist stadium

Name Metalist stadium
Capacity 35000
Year Completed 1926

The totally-reconstructed Metalist Stadium is the setting for three Group B matches. Known as 'The Spider' because of its arachnipod roof supports, the 38,500 capacity ground is located in the southern Kominternovsky district and is best reached on the metro, a taking the Red Line from the main railway station to Sportyvna.

Where to go, what to see

You cannot help but notice the Russian influence in the eastern Ukrainian outpost of Kharkiv, which lies a mere 20 miles from the border with its superpower neighbour. As close to three-quarters of Kharkiv's inhabitants are ethnic Russians, it is something of shame that Russian national team are not going to be one of the sides in Euro 2012 action in what could effectively have become a 'home' game for the Dick Advocaat and his men. However, the attractive games scheduled for the city's redeveloped stadium certainly make the mouth water, with Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, Germany's Miroslav Klose and Holland's Wesley Sneijder some of the stellar names set to tread the boards in Kharkiv in June. 

Russian is the primary language spoken in the city and even though all street names, road signs and menus are in Ukrainian, this is one host city that has taken its time to embrace the progression other parts of the country have enjoyed in the last few years, but it is starting to catch up at a rapid pace. Kharkiv will never be described as tourism central. How could it be after the Nazis turned it into dust during the Second World War, before taking on the role of the Soviet Union's workshop as it produced a never-ending steam of tractors, tanks, airplanes. 

To this day, it remains as the beating heart of Ukraine industry, taking care of the business of making electronics, military hardware and turbines as well as energy supply. The place might be functional and with all its USSR-style architecture, it can look a little austere, but anyone who thinks that its only attractions this summer will be the superstar footballers from Germany, Holland and Portugal footballers might be in for a surprise. While this is a working town, it is also one of dynamism and forward-thinking. 

Technology and innovation are making substantial inroads here and not surprisingly for the city with the most students in Ukraine, there is an increasingly vibrant nightlife, exemplified by its thriving club and rock and Indy music scene. Churchill's Music Club on vul Darvina 9 has above-average live music every night. Starograd on Lermontovskaya is a more than decent take on a German beer hall and garden, while Irish Pub (Mironositskaya 46) and Patrick's Irish Pub (Universitetskaya 2) avoid the usual Emerald Isle cliches, concentrating on good ale and the craic. 

One word of the lingo you might need is 'horilka' for vodka. The largest concentration of restaurants, all of them remarkably affordable, is in and around vul Petrovskovo. Try the European-style cafe cum bistro 22 (Petrovskovo 22) or the welcoming Italian, Adriano (vul Pushinska 79). Norma on Lenina 11 is the place for delicious local dishes such as pancakes with red caviar and borsch (beetroot soup). 

Two spots you have to take in on a trip to Kharkiv include the massive Ploschad Svobody (Freedom Square), the biggest of its kind in all of Europe, which will be home to the city's Euro 2012 Fan Zone, as well as the cafes and clubs of Sumskaya, the oldest and most central thoroughfare in town. The Kharkiv History Museum on pl Konstytutsiyi is also worth a look, as is the green inner city expanses of Shevchenko Park - named not after Ukraine's iconic striker Andrii but Taras, a hugely significant 19th century poet and philosopher. 

A trip to the impressive Opera House may be an afternoon excursion for the more culturally aware soccer lovers and it would also be worth checking out the organised chaos of the Tsentralny Rynok Central Market and the outdoor amusement park, Park Gorkovo. One thing you quickly notice about Kharkiv is the hegemony in these parts of billionaire businessman Oleksandr Yaroslavsky, who has set his heart on putting his city on the map using his vast financial muscle. A police constable turned wealthy industrialist, Yaroslavsky is not only in charge of a holding company specialising in financial services, construction and chemical production, but also finds the time for political influence, philanthropy and the running of Metalist, the top-flight football club he has pumped substantial sums into since taking over in 2005. 

Quite simply, Euro 2012 would not have come to Kharkiv without Yaroslavsky. The driving force behind their bid to host the tournament as well as their preparations for the main event, his legacy will be immense, notably providing much of the finance for a new terminal for the city's airport - found in the southern suburbs off Prospekt Gagarina - and the metro system ticks all the boxes: clean, cheap, frequent and with some amazingly ornate stations. 

One journey costs 1.5 hrivna (abbreviation UAH). Kharkiv's main railway station - and its signature fountain on the forecourt - is a little south-east of the cathedral just off the Poltava road. The principal bus station is south of town, a stone's throw from the Prospekt Gagarina metro station. 

Bus 119T runs from pr Lenina in the middle of town to the airport. You are unlikely to fall in love with Kharkiv as it is not a city inspiring such an emotion, but it promises to provide a fascinating backdrop for a European Championships that will allow supporters to experience a host of different cultures an atmospheres all in one unique tournament.