Germany, Greece Take Bailout Feud To Soccer Field

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Was there ever a game more fraught with political baggage? Greece played Germany Friday at the Euro 2012 championships in Poland. The rivalry continued between Europe's paymasters and Europe's supplicants. Melissa Block talks to Philip Reeves, who was at the game.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And now, the news Europeans have really been waiting for: The results of today's soccer match between Germany and Greece.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING AND DRUMMING)

BLOCK: Fans from these two rival nations sang and drank on the streets of the Polish city of Gdansk as they got into the mood for the game. But then - spoiler alert - for the Greeks came disappointment. Germany won the match four to two and advanced to the semifinals of the Euro 2012 championship. Greek fans, though, are defiant.

GEORGE STOUPPASS: Tell Angela Merkel and Obama that Greece never dies.

BLOCK: Greece never dies. That's Greek supporter George Stouppass. NPR's Philip Reeves joins us from Gdansk, where he watched the action with fans. And, Philip, tell us about the scene there.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Well, night is falling over the city, turning the giant cranes that loom over the famous shipyards of Gdansk into black silhouettes, and the many thousands who came from far and wide to witness this heavily charged contest are now heading home. I've moved into an overflow area where a very large crowd was watching the match free on a gigantic outdoor screen. I'm sure you can hear the music in the background.

BLOCK: Yes, I can.

REEVES: But despite all those party sounds, most of that crowd has drifted away into the night. The supporters of Greece, doubtless, to drown their sorrows in the bars and beer halls that line the picturesque town center of this Baltic seaport, the Germans to celebrate in the same places, no doubt, and to celebrate the fact that they are a superpower on the soccer field, as well as on the economic and political map of Europe.

BLOCK: And there is that overtone to all of this. Of course, Greece came into this game the decided underdog, Germany the favorite to win. Tell us about the game.

REEVES: Well, you know, the Greeks, you're right. They traveled north to this city more in hope than in any conviction that they could beat Germany. They arrived wearing huge blue and white Greek flags and, in many cases, smiles, a reflection of the fact that they always knew they were the underdogs and were relishing the chance that the dream really of giving Germany a bloody nose and lifting the dejected spirits of their fellow citizens back home. In the end, the Germans beat them pretty comprehensively, though.

They dominated the first half and emerged a goal ahead. In the second half, the Greeks gave the Germans a shock and must have set a huge roar of delight echoing across the cityscape of Athens because they equalized. After that, the Germans just motored ahead, slotted home three more goals. The Greeks did salvage some pride with a second goal, a penalty in the closing stages, so I guess it wasn't an utter disaster, but they were really out of their depth.

BLOCK: And, Phil, there's been a lot of trash talk, certainly, in the newspapers and I think in signs from the fans themselves. I'm looking at a headline from the German newspaper billed: Bye-Bye, Greece, We Can't Rescue You Today. All of this economic news sort of casting a shadow over this sporting match there.

REEVES: Yeah. There has been an undercarriage of politics and, if you talk to the fans, they all said it's just a game and so on. But you know, Germany's Angela Merkel was in the crowd and when her face appeared on the big screen, some of the Greeks booed her. They were - came to stress though that this game about national pride. One told me he thought the Greeks might be more productive if the Greeks win the game. They didn't, so I don't suppose that bodes very well for the eurozone. Politics were always present in this game, but you know, the outcome was inevitable and there are no surprises here.

BLOCK: OK. Philip, thanks so much.

REEVES: You're welcome.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Philip Reeves in Gdansk. Again, the final result, Germany four, Greece two.

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