x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Euro 2012: Politics threaten to overshadow Germany v Greece

Greece look to their Euro 2012 title triumph in 2004 for inspiration.

Fanis Gekas, the Greece striker, says his team understand the mentality of their German opponents ahead of today's Euro 2012 quarter-final game. Patrik Stollarz / AFP
Fanis Gekas, the Greece striker, says his team understand the mentality of their German opponents ahead of today's Euro 2012 quarter-final game. Patrik Stollarz / AFP

David against Goliath. Debtors against creditors. The bank against the stock exchange.

The prospect of Greece duelling with Germany for Euros – on the sports pages, for once – has brought with it a new vocabulary usually alien to football.

Even Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, will be there to watch. There is little escaping the political subtext to tonight's Euro 2012 quarter-final meeting.

Merkel is regarded as a lucky mascot for the German football team. Greek supporters in Poland tonight are, however, unlikely to have a warm welcome for a leader who has called on Greece to keep to tough austerity measures in return for financial aid from her country.

Fernando Santos, the Greece coach, said this week his players have been affected in relation to the Eurozone crisis.

"The players have family, they have friends, and they worry about what is going on," he was quoted as saying. "They are human beings and they feel that.

"What I have asked them to do is to try to forget about that when they play and to focus just on football to show they are real fighters."

They are going to have to fight cannily, as they will be trying to fell a giant. Germany have won their past 14 competitive games, a national record. This has been the first European Championship where they have completed the group stage with a 100 per cent record. Despite sneaking through their group, against expectations, the Greeks have been on a fair run themselves. Their pool defeat to the Czech Republic was their only loss in their past 13 games.

Accepted football wisdom may count against them, but they are ready to challenge that.

"We know Germany's mentality and their team," Fanis Gekas, the Greece striker, said at yesterday's pre-match press conference.

"They are the favourites but they will have to prove why over 90 or even 120 minutes."

Joachim Loew, the Germany coach, acknowledged that logic dictates his side are favourites, albeit "very, very small favourites".

His opposite number, Santos, is happy in the underdog role.

"I am willing to accept the role of David, so long as history repeats itself," said Santos, the Portuguese coach of Greece.

"I would like to seize this opportunity. Our source of inspiration is 2004," when Greece won the tournament under a German coach, Otto Rehhagel.

"That team showed resolution and strength, and although they were written off before the tournament started they managed to reach the finals and conquer the cup," Santos said.

"That is a source of inspiration for our team. We will try to do the same or at least the best we can."

Santos has urged his players not to be distracted by the socio-economic problems back at home, but some have found it to be a driving force. "I don't think anyone on the team believes this will be our last game at this tournament," Dimitris Salpingidis said. "People have so many problems in their everyday lives. We're really hoping that we can put a smile on their face."

One German side have already lost to a defence-minded side wearing blue in a prominent fixture in the recent past. The national team's Bayern Munich contingent may still be bearing scars from their defeat to Chelsea.

Loew does not see any parallels between the encounter with Greece and the Champions League final.

"They are survival artists," Loew said of the Greeks. "I've heard a lot about Chelsea playing very defensively but I don't see it like that. Greece have been playing this way for years, even in 2004."

pradley@thenational.ae

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