"This team doesn't even help to forget the crisis. Actually, it makes it worse," said interior decorator Filippo Bich.
In Dublin, Irish fans walked out of pubs looking disillusioned after their Boys in Green bowed out of the tournament with three straight defeats. Some compared the ineptness of their athletes to the inability of their government leaders to negotiate better bailout terms.
"We're outgunned on the football pitch and in Europe. We need a win to feel better about ourselves," said Terry Rafferty, a retired Dublin bank manager.
PORTUGAL 2, DENMARK 1
In Porto, Portugal, fans jumped from bar stools in dismay when their team made mistakes Sunday night. But citizens of this tiny bailed-out country emerged elated and briefly forgot their deep economic misery with communal cries of "Golo!" each time the team scored and finally beat Denmark.
Flag-waving supporters clogged streets with their cars, honking horns as drivers and passengers yelled "Portugal!" over and over. However, fans said the mood was much more subdued than during Euro 2004, which was held in Portugal, when the country's economy was charging ahead following its adoption of the euro.
After years of overspending, Portugal took a bailout last year and now has high unemployment, recession and harsh austerity measures imposed by creditors.
"We can have a break from the crisis of at least a month with Euro 2012, but I think both are coexisting, the cheerful mood and the crisis," said Ricardo Teixeira, a 30-year-old doctor. "Our life is completely dominated by the crisis."
Unemployed housekeeper Fatima Santos, 45, watched the game on large-screen TVs in Porto's main plaza — happy to forget her economic worries for a few hours.
"Right now with the crisis we do what is possible to enjoy life," she said. "Being depressed isn't worth it and giving up would be like dying."
SPAIN 1, CROATIA 0
Spain's late goal Monday night against a skillful Croatia generated whoops of joy in Madrid's packed bars after a particularly depressing day. The country's risk of needing an international bailout increased dramatically when its key bond interest rate hit an unsustainable rate of more than 7 percent — a figure that had previously prompted Greece, Ireland and Portugal to ask for bailouts.
Fans said the win was redemption for a proud country and maybe — just maybe — a sign that Spain will emerge from its crushing financial chaos intact.
"Spain's economy is against the ropes, but watching our team struggle, suffer and win against tough opposition inspires us to think that if you work hard you can overcome," said Diego Escalante, a 28-year-old lawyer. "You can read a lot into this beautiful sport and translate it to life. Preparation and talent make up the base, and teamwork adds the cherry on top. Many Spaniards are talented, excellently prepared and educated to good levels. If we work together we will come through this."
Sales executive Ramona Zulma, 37, said her country's Euro 2012 performance showed that Spain is capable of achieving great things.
"Spain is not a backwater," she said. "It is a country that has worked hard to get where it is, and it is so sad and depressing to see that for reasons that many of us barely understand we are now suffering economic difficulties."
Rising reported from Berlin. Contributing to this report: Harold Heckle in Madrid, Ana Paiva in Porto, Paola Barisani in Rome, and Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin.
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