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Greece versus Germany: Fight for pride shifts from summit to pitch

By Jim Boulden, CNN
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Fri June 22, 2012
  • CNN's Jim Boulden notes the delicious irony of Greece and Germany facing off on the pitch
  • Greece is in a financial crisis and has been forced to take two bailouts from its European peers
  • Germany, the eurozone's largest economy, has been the driving force behind the crisis plan
  • Greeks say their football team must play with pride and dignity, no matter the outcome

Editor's note: Jim Boulden is well used to covering the European debt crisis in his role as a CNN correspondent. He's also a keen football fan who usually supports Arsenal, but he'll be watching Friday's match between Germany and Greece with particular interest. Here he shares his thoughts ahead of the match.

London (CNN) -- Whether or not we witness a "Grexit" from the Euro 2012 football on Friday night, it is surely a delicious irony that Greece and Germany are squared up.

I stopped in at my local toy store Friday morning, where a Greek flag has been waving proudly above the door all week.

According to the owner, it's not if Greece wins or loses this game, it's how Greece wins or loses. Pride and dignity need to be at the fore, in other words.

I think this has been true through the entire euro crisis.

Samaras on Greece's Euro 2012 dream
Greece vs. Germany: More than a game
Has stability returned to Greece?

You cannot help but see that some Greeks feel humiliated by the whole process. Many Greeks tell me they know the pain is necessary, but not this way.

Truth is, I think both sides in the Greece versus Germany drama are correct when it comes to how we got here. Greece did not modernize their economy while other countries did -- there are far too many state employees at far too many state-run firms.

Frankly, it's hard to see how politicians could have done that in Greece given its legacy. Leadership failed in Greece and the people let it happen.

Greece's economic turmoil hits team

On the other side, the Greeks (and the Spanish and Irish) splurged on a decade of cheap credit and low interest rates. Part of that party money was spent on buying German-made goods and on money loaned by German banks looking for growth outside their natural borders.

The fuel was easily on offer and everyone soaked it up.

So, the crisis is not just the fault of the Greeks, the Irish, the Spanish and so on. They were allowed to get away with it for far too long.

A common problem needs a common solution. Yes, Europe moves painfully slowly and yes, they only seem to make major decisions when the crisis flares up. But at least they do make those decisions.

Euro 2012 in pictures

I suspect we are on the cusp on a new round of decisions. They may benefit the Spanish and Italians more than others, given how important those economies are to the eurozone.

My hope is that Greece falls off the radar of the markets and media again, for a number of months, while they get on with the painful restructuring. But it also needs to be done without humiliating the Greeks.

They will certainly play with pride on Friday night.

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