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“I’m glad they are at home,” said Nikolopulos, who arrived on a morning flight from London.

Before Samaras met with lawmakers in Athens on Friday afternoon, he could read headlines fueling national wishes to repel German policy on the field: “Bankrupt Them!” read Greek paper SportDay, as Derby News repeated the Spartan motto “Come and Get it.”

In Germany, the best-selling daily Bild led with: “Bye bye Greece; we can’t rescue you today.”

Nikolopulos, who is originally from Athens, said the feeling back home is that “Germany has put them in the corner” over the euro currency crisis.

“This is Greece’s opportunity to stand up and try to go back to being historical wonders,” he said, with a blue-and-white striped national flag draped across his shoulders.

Greece fans takes faith in their team’s surprise run to be Euro 2004 champion, founded on the same solid defense and dogged resistance shown by the current team in Poland. For three-time European champion Germany, the match seems more routine _ aiming for its fourth straight semifinal at each World Cup and Euro since Greece’s golden year.

“For me, it’s a normal football match,” said German fan Klaus Lehmkuhl, a technical consultant from Muenster. “I don’t think the politics is important for the German team.”

Still, some off-field tensions are expected when the German national anthem is played minutes before kickoff. And if images of Merkel sitting next to UEFA President Michel Platini in the VIP seats are shown on the stadium giant screens?

“There will be massive boos. I can’t see there not being some,” said Yiannis Televantibes, a real estate agent from London. “But there’s no problem between the fans.”

In Berlin, thousands of soccer fans waving German flags flooded the area in front of the landmark Brandenburg Gate. Organizers of the public viewing event said they expected around 400,000 to turn out to watch the match on large screens.

Earlier, a German deputy government spokesman was peppered with questions about the match and asked whether Merkel would feel the need to tone down any goal celebrations, because of the eurozone crisis.

“I think it depends a bit on how the game goes, but I think you will see that she is glad if there’s a goal on the right side,” Georg Streiter said.

Streiter also shrugged off a question as to whether Merkel would consider herself partly responsible if German loses.

“I think you would be loading up the chancellor, who already has plenty of packages to carry, with an unjustified package,” he said. “She’s a spectator.”


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