Euro woes in background of Germany vs. Greece

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Euro woes in background of Germany vs. Greece

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 on Sunday morning (KST).

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 Friday when three-time champion Germany takes on the surprise 2004 titleholder.

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

Greece has plenty of reasons 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 Wednesday at a memorial for Polish defenders at Westerplatte, a peninsula on the outskirts of the Baltic city.

Germany has two Polish-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.

Germany 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.”

AP

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