Forget about the financial crisis! While millions back home are worried about the state of the economy, the players from five nations at the Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine are trying to give football fans something else to think about.
“Victories give countries courage in difficult times,” said Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
If the financial problems of a country played a role in a team’s chances at Euro 2012, then the favourites would definitely include Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain.
In 2004, Greece sensationally captured the Euro title. But that was long before Hellas needed billions of euros in financial assistance. In 2008, Spain won the European Championship — again well in advance of the building sector breaking out from under the Iberians’ feet.
So, what about 2012? Which of Europe’s financial problem children will take the title? Can Portugal or Italy do it? Only Ireland of the quintet has been eliminated thus far.
The footballers from debt-ridden Greece know how much their performances on the pitch can help their compatriots back home. “The people should have the feeling that we are giving 100 per cent for them so that they have fun,” said Greece’s coach Fernando Santos.
“The difficult moments that Greece is going through are an additional factor for us to give the Greeks some pleasure,” added Greek captain Georgios Karagounis.
Spain keeper Iker Casillas also knows how important football can be for a distraction. “I think that our success has made football a bit of an escape. That doesn’t mean more pressure for us, even though we want to play a worthy European Championship,” said the Real Madrid star.
Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon said his team’s 1-1 draw against Spain was a strong message, adding: “We gave our country an important signal.” Portugal saw their opening match against Germany — a 1-0 defeat — as a national affair. Many fans and media in the home of the Seleccao ahead of time wanted revenge for the heavy cost-cutting measures for which they consider Germany responsible.
Keywords: Euro 2012