When Germany and Greece meet in the Polish city of Gdansk Friday in a EURO 2012 quarterfinal, it will be about a lot more than what happens on the pitch.
Over the past few years, Greece has been suffering an economic and political crisis that has roiled Europe. Greece has been depicted as the sick man of the continent, living well beyond its means and now unable to pay its debts.
Germany, by contrast, is the Euro zone's behemoth, one of the strongest economies in the world and a country that deftly navigated the worldwide financial crisis of 2008. Now, Greece is being forced to accept austerity in exchange for a $300 billion bailout from other European countries, largely on terms many Greeks feel are being set by Germany.
Adding a twist to the plot is the news that German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to attend the match in person. That's a custom at contests pitting nations against each other, but still salt in an open wound.
The European press has been having a field day with the story. The game is being called "the bailout game" and "a stress test," in reference to a technique regulators use to measure the soundness of big banks. Some of the commentary has had a darker edge, with crude references to Germany's WWII history.
There's a David vs. Goliath aspect to the game, too. Germany is a powerhouse of the football universe, having won three World Cups. Its players are some of the best in the world, plying their trade at the sport's marquee franchises like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and regularly mentioned as transfer targets to the English Premier League, where top players can earn $200,000 a week.
But the Greeks are not without hope.
"(The players will) fight a little bit more because (they want) to beat Angela Merkel," Greece fan Nikos Barzos told the Associated Press. "(It would be) a little bit of a small kick in Germany's (backside)."
Greece plays a scrappy, defensive gamem always looking to nab a breakaway goal. They won EURO 2004—coached by a German, no less. Quarter final matches are often result in draws, before going to overtime and then penalty kicks. Still, Germany is heavily favored and a loss will be considered a national failure.
One thing is certain: there will be a resolution to this contest today. The same cannot be said for the crisis Greece's government finds itself in.