herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Greeks aim to surprise Germans

GERMANY'S most prominent fan will be in the stands, and that could provide extra motivation for Greece in their European Championship quarter-final tomorrow night.

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 tomorrow night when three-time champions Germany takes on the surprise 2004 winners. “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 side was coached by a German, Otto Rehhagel. It’s the political background that adds spice to |the tie, 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.”

Merkel attended Germany’s 4-0 win over Argentina at the 2010 World Cup and saw Germany beat Turkey in Berlin in their most important Euro 2012 qualifier. 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.

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