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In Debt, Greece Looks To Soccer For A Win

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: And I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens. Five young single friends are sharing a single bottle of Heineken on a weathered park bench in a neighborhood of anarchists and bohemians. They're peering into a bar to see the widescreen TV playing the latest Euro championship game. This is where they'll be watching the game between Greece and the other country, the big bossy one who's loaned Greece billions and forced it to cut spending. George Tagaris is putting his money on the bossy guys.

GEORGE TAGARIS: I think that we will lose to the Germans because they have a beautiful team, a wonderful team, compared to ours, because we suck in football, that's what I think.

KAKISSIS: He's also aware that many Germans think the Greeks aren't great at money management. As for soccer skills, the Greeks have made it to the quarterfinals. So another George here, George Prigouris, says he's not daunted by the Germans.

GEORGE PRIGOURIS: I wanna hope that we have a chance. In the two previous Euros, we won. We were lucky, OK. But that's football.

KAKISSIS: None of these friends said Greek national pride is at stake tonight, but it seems that they and everyone in this country will be glued to the TV. In these grim times, Greeks are hoping for a moment of joy like 2004 when the country won the Euro Cup and the streets of the capital erupted in celebration. Across town in a traditional café, 46-year-old construction manager, Yiannis Lalissis is counting on victory.

YIANNIS LALISSIS: (Greek language spoken).

KAKISSIS: We're going to win, I'm sure of it, he says. Germans are perfectly fine people, but they're going to lose and we're going to win. Because he says, in the European Union, countries are supposed to be equal, and a little country, however messed up, should never be ruled out. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.

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