Unheralded Greece take on the might of Germany on Friday in what represents a classic modern day grudge match. Greece’s footballers have a chance to show their beleaguered nation will not be kicked out of the Euros without a fight.
People often say sport and politics don’t mix but try telling that to the Greek supporters who will be urging their team on against Germany on Friday in what has been billed as Euro 2012’s ultimate grudge match.
By throwing together Greece and Germany at a time when the eurozone debt crisis appears to be reaching its zenith football has once again proved it has a knack for impeccable timing.
Friday’s match in Gdansk is a chance for the Greeks to show that even if Germany might be pulling the strings of the country’s crippled economy, it cannot dictate terms so easily on the football pitch.
Greek supporters have had special T-shirts printed for the game which read, “Its time we kicked you out of the Euros”.
The clash promises to be one of those occasions when even Greeks who normally care little for the ‘beautiful game’ will be urging their team on to victory.
“This is more than a football match,” managing editor of Athens News Thrasy Petropoulus told FRANCE 24. “Playing Germany is going to be huge.
“The players will be up for this because they will know exactly what it means back home. The good thing is that the match will bring unity, because there is precious little of that around at the moment.”
Rich vs poor
The Greeks have not been afraid to stir up the tension ahead of the match. “Bring us Merkel” was the headline in the newspaper Goal News the day after Greece qualified for the quarter-finals with a shock 1-0 win over Russia.
The German Chancellor has answered the call, and her presence in the Gdansk’s PGE arena could make the occasion feel more pantomime than football match. Expect the chancellor, the evil villain in the eyes of Greeks, to be booed and whistled every time her image appears on the stadium’s big screen.
Greek bitterness towards Germany and Merkel stems from the perception among much of the population that crippling austerity measures inflicted on Greece as part of multi-billion dollar EU/ IMF bailout deal are far too harsh.
Greeks are also fed up with Berlin meddling in the affairs of Athens.
“Throughout the whole crisis Germany has failed to understand that smaller nations do not like being pushed around by bigger ones,” Petropoulos told FRANCE 24.
The economic and political backdrop has helped to spawn a healthy array of jokes that have been doing the rounds on the internet this week.
“Will Angela Merkel try to tell the Greeks how many goals they have to concede,” pondered @Nndroid on Twitter.
Even Greece’s embattled politicians took time out from their crucial coalition talks this week to joke about Friday’s fixture.
“The result is definitely not up for negotiation”, joked the country’s new Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, in reference to his desire to renegotiate the strict terms of the bailout deal with Germany and the EU.
The resentment goes both ways as German daily Bild demonstrated with its provocative headline “Poor Greeks, we’ll give you your next bankruptcy for free.”
Unsurprisingly though the Germans on the other hand have by and large been trying to take the sting out of Friday’s fixture.
“Politics won’t play such a big role. We have to forget about all that and concentrate on football,” said Lars Bender scorer of the winner over Denmark in Germany’s final group match.
David vs Goliath
Greece may not lack a will to win in Gdansk, but the odds are severely stacked against them pulling off what would go down as one of the most remarkable upsets in footballing history.
Germany, one of the pre-tournament favourites to win Euro 2012, have won 13 consecutive competitive matches. Despite being drawn in the supposed Group of Death, the Germans eased through without breaking a sweat with three victories over Portugal, Holland and Denmark.
The four time European Championship winners boast world class names such as Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger and Real Madrid’s Mesut Özil. With respect to Greece’s squad, very few of its players are known outside their own country.
Futhermore they will be without their suspended captain and talisman Giorgos Karagounis who scored the winner against Russia in their final group match.
But names and titles are not likely to faze a Greek team which has a history of upsetting the odds in this tournament. In Euro 2004 no one gave them a hope of beating European Champions France in their quarter-final clash, but Greece beat Zinedine Zidane and co and went on to win the tournament.
Greece are carefully plotting to upset Europe once again and are expected to use the same tactics of soaking up pressure against the might of the German attack and hoping to nick a goal on the break or from a set piece.
“We have nothing to lose. We are playing against one of the best teams in the tournament. We will give our best and hope to succeed,” said Greece player Kyriakos Papadopoulos.
Date created : 2012-06-19