Angela Merkel to attend Germany's Euro quarterfinal despite her unpopularity with Greeks

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

German chancellor Angela Merkel has refused to go back on her plan to watch Germany's Euro 2012 quarterfinal against Greece, despite being warned that she will face verbal abuse.

Merkel is deeply unpopular in Greece, with the stricken nation blaming Germany and its politicians for many of Greece's recent fiscal problems.

Germany has been the most significant contributor to Greece's financial bailout package, but in return has demanded extensive structural reforms and spending cuts while threatening to hasten a Greek departure from the Euro, Europe's single currency.

Fans of Greece have planned banners and chants voicing their disdain for Merkel when the sides meet in the Polish city of Gdansk on Friday, yet the 58-year-old leader said she would take her place at the stadium nevertheless.

"It will be a good sporting event and I hope that it will be a very fair sporting event," said Merkel, adding that she hoped new Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras would also be at the match.

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Merkel has become something of a good luck charm for Germany, watching several of the side's matches during its run to the semifinal of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and even offering advice to influential midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.

"She has been a strong voice of support for this team," said Schweinsteiger. "It is always nice to have the support of the leader of the country."

As usual, she is expected to wear a Germany scarf while cheering on coach Joachim Loew's team, but is certain to face a hostile atmosphere for her first appearance at Euro 2012. Like many other European leaders, Merkel refused to attend matches in Ukraine – where Germany's group was held – in protest of alleged human rights violations against the Ukraine government.

"We want to tell Merkel what we think of her, her ideas and her policies," said Yiannis Kyriakos, a member of one of Greece's leading fan groups. "Her measures have hurt our country and are affecting people's lives every day. She will see the passion of the Greek people and see our displeasure."

Germany is an overwhelming favorite to advance to the semifinals, having breezed to three straight wins in Group B, which was dubbed the Group of Death and widely thought to be the toughest pool in the tournament.

Greece meanwhile, squeezed into the last eight in dramatic fashion, upsetting Russia on the final night of Group A action to stay alive.

The difficulty faced by their compatriots appears to have galvanized the Greece squad. "When we left home we all promised to really give it everything we had," said veteran Giorgos Karagounis, who scored the decisive goal against Russia but will be suspended for this match. "We always do that anyway, but the hardship has made us fight more."

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Loew, however, has tried to distance himself from any political intrigue surrounding the game and he urged his players to put in another thoroughly professional performance.

"Angela Merkel and the national team are on very good terms," Loew said. "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.

"As far as we are concerned we are approaching a normal football match and that is the end of it," he said.

However, defender Holger Badstuber warned that the Greeks' extra motivation could not be discounted.

"Maybe it is different for the Greeks as they are playing for national pride," said the Bayern Munich star. "It is beyond us what people make of the political connotations."

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