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Slick Germany crush Greek dreams again

Germany, watched by Chancellor Angela Merkel, a hated figure in Greece who for many personifies the painful bail-out conditions imposed on the country, were easy winners in the end and will face England or Italy for a place in the final.

Greece, hoping for a repeat of their unlikely Euro 2004 triumph, produced some stout defending in the first half but were sent home by clinical German finishing to the delight of Merkel who leapt out of her seat to celebrate their goals.

"Of course, we desperately wanted to win, and it would have been amazing for people back in Greece," said 42-year-old Aliks Fotiou, a Greek who lives in Zurich and had flown to Poland with his sister and her two daughters.

"At least we got two goals and that gives us some compensation. We tried hard but Germany are just such a powerful team."

There were no signs of the disputes between the countries spilling over into trouble at the stadium with fans focused on the high stakes drama on the pitch.

"Yes there was all this hype beforehand but I think all the fans from Greece and Germany and Poland helped make it a really warm, friendly occasion - a football festival," said Jorg Himmler, 47, who had travelled 20 hours by train from Heidelberg to reach Gdansk.


While the fans may have concentrated on the football, the German and Greek newspapers had talked up the eurozone theme with enthusiasm.

"Bye-bye Greeks, we can't rescue you today!" the top-selling Bild proclaimed on Friday's front page in the colours of the Greek flag.

"Bankrupt THEM," blared leading Greek paper Sport Day.

Even the respected daily Kathimerini drummed home to Greeks that the match was against a foe popularly blamed for saddling Greece with a punitive austerity programme, chronic unemployment and years of deep economic recession.

"Whoever thinks today's match is just a game is wrong," the paper wrote, vowing it was "politics [maybe even war] by other means".

On the field, though, Germany, who have never lost to Greece, dominated possession from the outset although they had to wait 39 minutes to break down a dogged Greek side when Philipp Lahm's swerving effort put them in front.

However, they were stunned 10 minutes after half-time when Giorgos Samaras levelled, finishing off a swift counter-attack.

Sami Khedira's rasping volley and a header from Miroslav Klose, his 64th goal for his country, then eased Germany's nerves before Marco Reus added a fourth.

Greece grabbed a late consolation, marginally reducing the deficit with a penalty from Dimitris Salpingidis.

The tournament continues with holders Spain facing France in Donetsk, Ukraine on Saturday before England and Italy clash on Sunday in Kiev.


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