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You're reading: Political background in Germany versus Greece match

GDANSK, Poland — Germany's most prominent fan will be in the stands, and that could provide extra motivation for Greece in the European Championship quarterfinals.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is believed to bring luck
to the German team, but she is not popular in Greece. So passions could
be running high on june 22 when three-time champion Germany takes on the
surprise 2004 titlists.

“We are playing for our shirt, our flag and for the people back home,” Greece midfielder Costas Katsouranis said.

Greece
has plenty of reason to be thankful to Germany — the 2004 champion side
was coached by a German, Otto Rehhagel. It’s the political background
that adds spice to the match, despite attempts of both German and Greek
officials to play down that angle.

Germany, Europe’s biggest
economy, has been a major contributor to international economic bailouts
for Greece and was instrumental in demanding structural reforms and
hugely unpopular spending cuts in return.

Greek fans are unlikely to take Merkel’s presence kindly and this could even drive their team to another overachieving level.

“I
don’t think anyone on the team believes this will be our last game at
this tournament,” Greece forward Dimitris Salpigidis said. “People have
so many problems in their everyday lives. We’re really hoping that we
can put a smile on their face.”

The match will be played at Arena
Gdansk, near the scene of the first battle of World War II as Nazi
Germany invaded Poland. A German football federation delegation laid a
wreath on June 20 at a memorial for Polish defenders at the Westerplatte
peninsula on the outskirts of the Baltic city.

Germany
has two Poland-born players in its squad, Miroslav Klose and Lukas
Podolski, and Polish fans could throw their support behind the Germans.
By winning its group, Germany got to stay in Gdansk and will be spared
the stress of travel.

Merkel attended Germany’s 4-0 win over
Argentina at the 2010 World Cup and saw Germany beat Turkey in Berlin in
the most important Euro 2012 qualifier for her team. She’s been to the
dressing room and also briefly visited the team in Gdansk before the
tournament kicked off.

“She seems to bring us luck,” Germany midfielder Sami Khedira said.

Germany
is the only team to have won all three group games and goes into the
quarterfinals as the overwhelming favorite. But the Germans won’t be
complacent.

“They are a very good team, underestimated by many.
They create few chances but score from them. Technically they are strong
and play well one-on-one,” Khedira said of Greece. “It will be tough to
crack their defense, but we have the means. We have to be patient, but
we also have to be constantly on the move. They will try to disrupt our
game and beat us, but they will not succeed.”

Midfielder Thomas Mueller also expected Greece to seek its luck in a tight defense.

“They
are not going to throw four strikers at us,” Mueller said. “We know
what we have to do, but it’s not going to be a piece of cake.”

Greece
will be missing suspended playmaker and captain Giorgos Karagounis, but
defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos, one of the many Greece players with
Bundesliga experience, said the team had nothing to lose.

“We are
playing against one of the best teams here,” Papadopoulos said. “All I
can say is that we’ll fight. If we get the win, that would be a huge
result.”

For the Germans, there is speculation that coach Joachim
Loew may reshuffle his lineup and return Klose to the starting 11,
although Mario Gomez scored three goals that won matches against
Portugal and the Netherlands.

The 34-year-old Klose scored the
last time the two sides faced each other, in a World Cup qualifying
match in 2001. Overall, Germany has five wins and three draws in eight
matches against Greece.

“We are not too bothered about
statistics,” Salpigidis said. “Whether it’s the first ever win against
Germany, that doesn’t really matter.”

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