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BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Germany’s European Championship quarterfinal match against Greece for a game that brings together nations at opposite ends of Europe’s debt crisis, the German government said Wednesday.Merkel can go to Friday’s match in Gdansk, Poland, because the Italian government moved forward by several hours a meeting in Rome with the Italian, French and Spanish leaders that originally was supposed to end as the match started, government spokesman Georg Streiter said.
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has been a major contributor to international bailouts for Greece and was instrumental in demanding structural reforms and hugely unpopular spending cuts in return.
The presence of Merkel, who is not a popular figure in Greece, could add extra political spice to Friday’s encounter — though team officials on both sides have been at pains to stress that it is purely a sporting event.
“She hopes for an exciting and fair match,” Streiter told reporters in Berlin.
With Greece still in the process of forming a government after Sunday’s elections, it wasn’t clear whether Merkel will meet any Greek officials at the match. Merkel, who has frequently attended Germany matches over recent years, was invited to Gdansk by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
“This is a football match, and it is exclusively about sport,” Streiter said.
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