For the first time since they won the European Tournament in 2004, people outside its borders have taken notice of the Greek national soccer team. Defeating Russia to advance to the quarterfinals, all eyes are on the impending Greek matchup with Germany.
There is so much political symbolism in the air around what the BBC is dubbing the “Bailout Game,” that players will be struggling for breath on the pitch. Reporters have gone to lengths to sell this game as representing a battle between the fractured Greek economy and the prosperous German economy, and have done so with such intensity that it’s difficult to tell if a war is being fought or a game is being played.
Although it is indeed the latter, Greece will need the strength of 300 mighty Spartans if they hope to advance to the semi-finals. This German team is skilled, strong, and disciplined. Taking a perfect 9 points from the group stages, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Özil have combined together yet again to form the core of a fearsome German midfield. Together, they have had no trouble linking up with in-form striker Mario Gomez who will look to add to his goal tally tonight.
The defense has proven trustworthy as well, with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer inspiring confidence between the pipes. On the other hand, Greece has not displayed anywhere near the dominance of the Germans, but has shown resilience and heart by battling through the group stages. Cast as David to Germany’s Goliath, expect the Greeks to try and their foes on the counterattack.
And if the odds weren’t stacked against them highly enough already, the Greeks will be without their captain and leader Giorgos Karagounis, due to a suspension. While Greece will be anchored in defense, forward Dimitris Salpingidis has the talent to catch Germany off guard, and will be looking for his moment. While Germany looks set to march to the finals, with stout defense and a little luck, the Greeks may be able to put one in and bail themselves out of the quarters and into the semis.
In the meantime, keep your head low, because political quips and puns will be flying through the air all game long.