(GDANSK, Poland) — Greece will wiggle itself out from under Germany’s boot heel for at least 90 minutes on Friday, as the international spotlight shifts from the Eurozone’s hottest fiscal feud to an unlikely European Championship quarter-final soccer match in Gdansk, Poland.
Victory against the heavily favored German side, with Chancellor Angela Merkel flying in from Berlin to support her squad, would make for a rare and glorious night in Austerity-blighted Athens.
Tabloids newspapers around the world spent the past four days chewing up the storyline.
“Rejoice, dear Greeks,” wrote Germany’s Bild newspaper, “your bankruptcy on Friday is on us!”
“Bring us Merkel,” read a headline in Greece’s Goal News, “You will never get Greece out of the euro.”
Players from both sides have downplayed the political angle, with Greek striker Georgios Samaras (no relation to new Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras) calling the subplot “a bad thing,” and declaring his team was “going to play and enjoy it because we love it, nothing else.”
German manager Joachim Low sounded a similar note on Tuesday.
“Angela Merkel and the national teams are on very good terms,” he told reporters. ”We have reached an agreement where she doesn’t interfere with my tactical instructions and, in return, I don’t deal with her political agenda.”
If only it were so simple. While it’s a touch overwrought to say “soccer explains the world,” there should be little doubt that the sport has a way of synthesizing the politics of the moment and calling up the pain of generations’ past.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis, Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson, CNN
Holly Yan, Chuck Johnston and David Williams, CNN