NEW YORK (AP) -- The World Cup is where favorites go to win titles. At the European Championship, which begins next weekend, anything goes.
Such as Greece stunning the 16-team field to take the crown four years ago. Or Denmark getting into the tournament only because another nation was thrown out, then winning it all in 1992.
The Soviet Union and Spain won their only major titles at Euros. So did the Czechs when, as Czechoslovakia in 1976, they stunned West Germany on penalty kicks, the only final decided by a shootout.
So while current world champ Italy, Germany, France, Portugal and Spain are considered front-runners to appear in the June 29 final, who's to say that Romania, Turkey or even those spunky Greeks won't walk off with the trophy?
Not that anyone will be caught off-guard by these outsiders.
"I'm sure all our opponents have done their homework," Greece midfielder Giorgos Karagounis said. "But ... we do have a strong team."
Indeed, aside from the World Cup, Euros has the best field of any soccer tournament on the planet. Some would argue that without the frequent second-rate squads that qualify for the World Cup _ hey, the United States was abysmal in two of the last three global championships -- the collection of teams at Euros is superior to any other event.
"It's going to be the most difficult tournament ever. All the teams are at a similar level. Anyone can beat anyone," said Germany coach Joachim Loew, who assisted Juergen Klinsmann as his nation made the World Cup semifinals two years ago. "As for us, we work well as a unit, our system and our organization are well rehearsed."
As it must be, because there will be few if any gimmes at Euros. Yes, co-hosts Austria and Switzerland are among the weaker entries, but the Greeks were rated so low in 2004 that they regularly were predicted to go home after the first round.
One nation that won't be leaving after the opening round is England. The country where soccer was born didn't even qualify.
That should make security issues less tense. But both hosts are adamant that this will be as peaceful a tournament as the 2006 World Cup was in Germany.
In fact, Austrian and Swiss officials have leaned on their neighbors for help making Euros safe.
Germany is sending 850 police officers to support Austrian colleagues. Switzerland's federal council approved funds for a maximum of 5,250 operation days in crowd control: 4,500 by German police in Basel and Zurich, 750 by French officers in Geneva.
"Close international cooperation is indispensable in coping with an event such as the Euro 2008," Swiss security spokesman Martin Jagged said.
Games will be played in Vienna, Innsbruck, Salzburg and Klagenfurt in Austria. In Switzerland, the sites are Geneva, Bern, Basel and Zurich. All of them will be televised live in the United States for the first time, by ESPN and ABC.
The openers pit the Czechs against the Swiss at Basel and the Portuguese playing Turkey at Geneva on June 7. The final will be in Vienna.
As for who might wind up there, the favorites -- if that really means anything at Euros -- include soccer's biggest achievers, the Germans and the Italians.
Loew still has the core of the team that brought excitement and an attacking style to the 2006 World Cup, and the pressure of being at home won't plague the Germans.
"We have been preparing for two years for this tournament," Loew said. "The tension and the concentration are rising within me, but I am really looking forward to it. We are well prepared, it's time for the championship to start."
Look for Germany to ride the offense provided by veterans Miroslav Klose and Michael Ballack, and rising star Mario Gomez.
Italy also has a new coach, former Azzurri standout Roberto Donadoni. He's been criticized for being too inexperienced for the job, but he suggests the experiences of winning Italy's fourth world title won't be much help in this event.
"The fact that Italy is the world champion is important, but we were the world champions two years ago," Donadoni said. "It's a new day now and a different tournament, and I think we're up to the task."
France coach Raymond Domenech, not exactly a shrinking "violette," is certain his team is ready to emulate the 1984 and 2000 squads that won Euros.
"For me, it's France who will be champion of Europe," Domenech said.
Both Italy and France have an extremely difficult chore in the first round, from which the top two teams advance to the knockout stage. They are grouped with the Netherlands and Romania, both talented but unpredictable.
"I'm a little worried about Romania," Italy's outstanding goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. "They've got four or five highly talented players that can hide the ball from you."
Also hiding among the outsiders will be Turkey, Poland, the host countries and, dare we say it, Greece.
The Greeks were 80-1 choices back in 2004, but their stingy defense and timely scoring carried them to their only significant international title. They even beat the home team, Portugal, twice _ in the opener and in the final.
Could it happen again? Sure. At Euros, it always seems possible.
"We had 31 points after playing 12 (qualifiers). That has to say something," Karagounis said. "We have ambition. We have a good team, and we believe in ourselves."