There was such intense interest by Germans that in Berlin about 500,000 soccer fans gathered around the iconic Brandenburg Gate and in other public venues on Friday night to watch the game.
But several German spectators confessed that they were baffled by the extent of the anger some Greeks directed at them.
“This is nonsense,” said Thomas Knabe, who was at a beer garden near the university in western Berlin with about 1,000 others. “It is not us who are responsible for the debts of Greece.”
Hildegard Aglassiner, 61, an office employee, said she has no animosity toward the Greeks: “We really wish them luck in their economic success. But not in sports. If they are playing the better game, they should win. If not, they shouldn’t.”
In Athens, the game was all about pride.
Men and women dressed in blue shirts the color of the Greek flag and in the jerseys of their national team spilled on to streets lit up by flat-screen TVs that had been erected outside. Commerce came to a standstill as tens of thousands watched the game together.
In one cafe in the working-class section of Patisia, which has been hit especially hard by the crisis, the crowd — made up of adults of all ages — was mostly silent as it watched Germany’s players take shot after shot at the goal.
Alas, after Samaras’s goal, the match remained tied for a mere six minutes, until Germany's Sami Khedira volleyed a cross from the right side into the net.
When the TV cameras flashed to Merkel cheering, the fans raised their arms above their heads, shook them and shouted “Ahhhhh” — the Greek equivalent of booing.
“German politics are responsible for the situation we are in,” said Panos Papadopoulos, 26, an unemployed writer.
His friend, Georgios Chrisafis, 30, who used to work on a boat before he, too, lost his job, nodded. “Merkel is probably the most hated person in Europe.”
The reaction 1,200 miles to the northeast in Berlin to the same images was the opposite: As Merkel rose from her seat in slow motion, throwing her arms into the air, the crowd was jubilant.
Greece lost 4-2, but, as one spectator in Athens put it, it was a defeat with dignity.
“They did our country proud. In this small way, we punched above our weight,” said Paulos Zafiropoulos, 30, who worked for an environmental TV show before he was laid off in February.
In the end, much of the animosity seemed to evaporate when the players walked off the field. Friday night’s game had been about hyperbole, and even the people making the provocative comments said they knew this.
“We shouted at them because it was fun,” said Sofia Frageskarou, 52, in Athens. “We know this isn’t going to make a difference with the crisis. We know it’s just a game.”
Krischok, a special correspondent, reported from Berlin.