- Associated Press - Friday, June 22, 2012

GDANSK, POLAND (AP) - Germany ousted Greece from the European Championship on Friday, denying an uplifting end to an emotional week of soccer and politics for the Greeks.

In their Euro 2012 quarterfinals match, as in the crisis-hit eurozone economy, German influence proved tough for Greece to overcome and the match ended 4-2.

Defeat was a little harder for Greek fans to swallow in the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, their perceived nemesis on the political field.

Merkel was met with a chorus of theatrical whistles and jeers by Greece fans each time her image appeared on Arena Gdansk stadium’s four giant screens.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

GDANSK, Poland (AP) _ Now for the really important business between Greece and Germany: Soccer.

On Friday, thousands of fans from the two nations at opposite ends of the eurozone financial crisis converged on neutral Polish turf for a European Championship quarterfinal match.

For Greece fans, Friday’s clash in Gdansk inevitably mixes sports and politics, Euro 2012 and the euro currency. They seek respect for their country after its humiliating economic collapse _ and the German government’s role in imposing strict austerity measures as a condition of Greece getting (EURO)240 billion ($300 billion) in bailout pledges.

“It’s not good that sports and politics are together, but today we have no other choice,” Greece fan Michalis Kalotrapesis said, wearing a white national team shirt and tracksuit top. “We are playing for our country and for our image in Europe and all over the world.”

Kalotrapesis, and three Greek friends who now live in Germany, drove through the night to support their native nation here. Their pride in performing what they see as a patriotic duty fits into Greece’s favored national narrative: In soccer as in finance, Germany is the traditional power and Greece the spirited underdog.

“We are a little bit crazy, but it’s the Greek mentality,” said Nikos Barzas, pointing out the bloodshot eyes of the group’s designated driver, Georgios Kotiniotis. They left Gifhorn, Germany, at midnight with 750 kilometers (about 465 miles) of roads ahead of them.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend the match after morning economic meetings in Italy that were brought forward to help fulfill her role as the supposed lucky charm of the national team.

Barzas is glad she is coming _ to further spur the team and 5,000 Greece fans expected to attend the match.

“(The players will) fight a little bit more because (they want) to beat Angela Merkel. (It would be) a little bit of a small kick in Germany’s (backside),” he said.

About 15,000 Germans were expected to go to the match, according to the Football Supporters Europe group. Many of the Germans arrived at Gdansk’s main train station, where the scalpers’ asking price was (EURO)200 (about $250) for a ticket with a face value of (EURO)75 ($95). There didn’t appear to be any Greek fans in the market for them.

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