All 16 teams at Euro 2012 wanted to do well, but some needed to more than others.
For Italy, which meets England in the quarterfinals on Sunday, success at Euro 2012 would offset damage done to its domestic game by the latest Italian match-fixing scandal, which has seen about 50 arrests since last year.
For France, a surprise defeat of defending champion Spain in the quarters would help win back French supporters who were disgusted with the national squad after its shameful behavior at the 2010 World Cup, when its stars went on strike and performed abysmally.
As for England, its team arrived with such low expectations that overcoming Italy to reach the semifinals would be such an accomplishment that the famously short-tempered British tabloids might even grant a stay of execution for new manager Roy Hodgson.
But no nation needed a dose of football opium as much as the Greeks, to help them momentarily forget their financial misery.
Greece can get some payback on Friday, against Germany. That quarterfinal, pitting Europe’s sickest economy against its largest one, could join the annals of great football grudge matches _ like England vs. Argentina or the Netherlands vs. Germany.
Germany has been a major contributor to two multibillion-euro financial rescue packages for Greece but, in return, it also made the Greeks implement tough reforms and spending cuts that have left their economy mired in a deep recession, producing anger and resentment.
GERMANY TO WIN:
Spain’s dependence on Fernando Torres up front will be the world champion’s undoing. Despite his double against Ireland, Torres still doesn’t look reliable for goals. With his Plan B of playing a midfield without a recognized striker, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque seems to be attempting to rewrite the norms of football. The Spanish pass the ball beautifully among themselves but their embroidery doesn’t always look very dangerous.
Not only is Germany the only team that won all its group matches, it looks like it has more goals and victories to come.
My tip: Germany, crowned champion on July 1.
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By Elaine Donnelly
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