Political background in Germany vs. Greece match
GDANSK, Poland (AP) -Germany's most prominent fan will be in the stands and that could provide extra motivation for Greece in the European Championship quarterfinal. Chancellor Angela Merkel is believed to bring luck to the German team but in Greece, she is not popular.
Passions could be running high in the Gdansk Arena on Friday when three-time champion Germany takes on the surprise 2004 tournament winner.
Greece is already the surprise again with an unexpected place in the knockout stages.
"It was always our main aim to reach the quarterfinals. So now we have nothing to lose,'' said defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos, one of the many Greece players with Bundesliga experience. "We are playing against one of the best teams here. All I can say is that we'll fight. If we get the win, that would be a huge result.''
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 backgrounds 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 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 feat of overachievement.
"We are playing for our shirt, our flag and for the people back home,'' midfielder Costas Katsouranis said.
Forward Dimitris Salpigidis was even more upbeat about his team's chances.
"I don't think anyone on the team believes this will be our last game at this tournament,'' Salpigidis said. "People have so many problems in their everyday lives. We're really hoping that we can put a smile on their face.''
Gdansk was also the scene of the first battle of World War II, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. A German football federation delegation laid a wreath Wednesday 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 and fatigue of travel.
Merkel attended Germany's 4-0 demolition of 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,'' midfielder Sami Khedira said Wednesday.
Germany is the only team to have won all three group games and goes into the quarterfinal 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.
"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. We know what we have to do, but it's not going to be a piece of cake,'' Mueller said.
Greece will be missing playmaker and captain Giorgos Karagounis through suspension.
German media are speculating that coach Joachim Loew may reshuffle his lineup and return striker Klose to the starting 11, although Mario Gomez scored three goals that won matches against Portugal and the Netherlands.
Klose, 34, scored the last time the two sides faced each other, in a World Cup qualifying match in 2001. As always, Loew has remained silent on his plans.
Six Greece players have either played or still play in the Bundesliga.
In the eight matches played against Germany or the former West Germany, Greece has collected five defeats and and three draws.
"We are not too bothered about statistics, whether it's the first ever win against Germany, that doesn't really matter,'' Salpigidis said.
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