While tactics seem to be more homogenous in the modern game (thanks to video technology and the Internet, no one does anything that isn’t instantly available to everyone else), stereotypes about the styles of play associated with various nations still hold power over fans. It’s hard to imagine what Brazil would have to do to make people change their assumptions about samba soccer … if the scoreless final against Italy in the 1994 World Cup didn’t affect people, nothing would. Spain has managed to overcome their reputation as underachievers, though, and Germany, long known as an efficient machine, play what most now consider a very attractive brand of soccer. Greece, meanwhile, cemented their own reputation as a nation focused on results over aesthetics when they won three consecutive 1-0 matches in winning the 2004 European championship. (For some reason, Spain, who won their last four matches by 1-0 margins in taking the 2010 World Cup, were praised for their stylish play.)
In any event, Greece is a team I regularly root against, while Germany has become something of a favorite. When the two meet, I am not really neutral … I root for Germany, or at least I root against Greece. The Greeks did what they could against the Germans; I can’t blame them for adopting a negative strategy against overwhelming odds, and their first, equalizing goal was a delight. But I’m not sorry to see them eliminated.
But sometimes the real world interferes with our appreciation of sports. It’s safe to say I’m not much of a fan of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her actions during the financial crisis. Thus, I tweeted during the match, “I want Germany to beat Greece. But it would be nice if Greece ruined Merkel's day." (Merkel has been a very present figure at Germany’s matches during Euro 2012.) It would be particularly symbolic if it was the Greeks who defeated Germany. I couldn’t really bring myself to root for Greece in the match, but I did tire of the repeated shots of Merkel celebrating in the stands.
Still, Greece is not the only European country with financial problems. Spain is also struggling, so they are getting the same treatment from Merkel that the Greeks receive. Since I am rooting for Spain in the tournament, and since Spain is actually a talented team, it is possible Spain and Germany will meet before the tournament is done. It would be a pleasure to watch Merkel squirm while her team lost.