From the very moment Greece was issued aid by its European partners, its harshest critic and most stern policeman has been Germany. The Germans, you see, are budget minded and perennially profitable. Thus, the nation's austere populace wonders aloud why they should pay for Greek negligence.
Greeks on the streets of Athens and Greek-Americans in New York City counter with arguments about the infinite contributions of the Greek culture to society, the foundation upon which modern day Germany stands. Greeks will neither shy from reminding Germany about the tonnage of gold and ancient relics stolen away during World War II, not to mention 10% of the Hellenic Republic's population sacrificed in its impossible defense against the Nazis. That was one of the largest percentage losses among sovereign nations during the war, though of course not nearly as bad as the horrendous atrocities the Jewish people suffered.
So, in retrospect, perhaps it's not too much to ask Germany for a little slack today, so that Greece might stand on its feet again. However, after the Greeks voted to endure continued austerity for the sake of remaining in the eurozone, and to honor their debts to the EU and IMF, German Chancellor Angela Merkel only reiterated a strict stance for hard days for Greece. Others in Italy and Spain, where the taste of Greece's pain is almost familiar, called for an extension of the time-line for Greece to pay back its debt. Such grace would allow Greece to more gradually employ necessary measures in a means that might not overburden its economy and its people.
Much insult and injury has been delivered by each party in this family argument, but on Friday, the nations will each get a chance to vent in a very competitive and direct manner. Greece faces Germany, you see, in the quarterfinals of the UEFA European Championship. To the winner goes the pride.
Picking the Winner
Greece does not match up well against Germany today in many regards, but if a comparison were made taking into account the course of history, well then we would have a different favorite. Let's have some fun then picking a winner between Greece and Germany in this marquee match-up…
FIFA World Soccer Ranking
GDP Global Rank
Contributions to Humanity
Most Euro Victories
Most Recent Euro Victory
Best Story If Victorious
* Data by Wikipedia, except millionaires list which was published by Bloomberg Businessweek, and "Passion," "History," and "Best Story If Victorious," which were determined by your very biased author.
Greece does not have a whole lot going on these days, save soup kitchens and suicides. Its population is much smaller than Germany's, but its military is larger including reserves. Greece's economy cannot compare to the cornerstone of Europe, which is Germany. As far as publicly traded companies, well, that is part of the problem. Greece's industrial base is much less important than Germany's, with Greece's focus on tourism, agriculture and shipping.
The National Bank of Greece (NYSE:NBG) trades in penny stock territory at $1.76 per share in New York, though it's still sporting a market capitalization of $1.68 billion. Germany's best known bank is Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB), trading upward of $35 per share, valuing the company at $32.7 billion. Germany's largest companies are in fact on the tip of the tongue of most Americans, while Greek firms are generally not known except by Greek-American stock nerds like your Wall Street Greek.
Germany's Largest Companies Notable to Americans:
- Allianz Worldwide (OTCQX:AZSEY)
- Daimler-Chrysler (OTCPK:DDAIF)
- Deutsche Bank
- Siemens (SI)
- Munich Re (MUV2.F)
- BMW Group (BMW.DE)
- Volkswagen (OTCQX:VLKPY)
- BASF (OTCQX:BASFY)
- Commerzbank (OTCPK:CRZBY)
- Bayer (OTCPK:BAYRY)
- ThyssenKrupp (OTCPK:TYEKF)
- SAP ((NYSE:SAP)
- National Bank of Greece
- Alpha Bank A.E. (OTCPK:ALBKY)
- Agricultural Bank of Greece
- Viohalco S.A. (BIOX.AT)
- Bank of Cyprus (BOC.AT)
- Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co. (CCH)
- Ellaktor S.A. (ELTEX.AT)
- Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE.AT)
- EFG Eurobank Ergasias S.A. (OTCPK:EGFEY)
- Hellenic Telecommunications (OTCPK:HLTOY)
- INTRALOT S.A. (OTCPK:IRLTY)
- Marfin Financial Group (OTC: MRFGY)
- Marfin Investment Group (MIG.AT)
- Motor Oil Corinth Refineries (OTCPK:MOHCY)
- Mytilineos Holdings (OTCPK:MYTHY)
- OPAP SA (OTCPK:GOFPY)
- Public Power Corp. (PPC.AT)
- Titan Cement (OTCPK:TITCY)
- Piraeus Bank (TPEIR.AT)
- TT Hellenic Postbank SA (TT.AT)
It's a list of never heard of names for most of you.
Clearly, economically speaking, Greece is a second class citizen. Much of this is because of the great brain drain that occurred for Greece after Ottoman rule and during the dark days following World War II. Whether because of communism and civil war, or for survival's sake, a great many Greeks left Greece and are now domiciled across the globe. Greeks are leaving again today for their own survival, and are being welcomed across the globe by their brethren. It's unfortunate that sometimes they never return.
As far as soccer goes, there's a beautiful fairness in play. On any given day, any given team can beat any other team. That is because it will not be 80 million against 10 million on Friday; GDP nor personal wealth will matter when the national teams meet on the pitch. What will matter is passion and pride, two factors which run richly in Greeks. Yet, the Greek team is over matched, as is clear by the FIFA rankings and by the play of both teams through the tournament thus far. But, these two teams have not met yet. Germany is a strong soccer squad, and just like its culture, it succeeds through science and scheme.
For Greece, though, the game itself often determines how well the team plays. When Greece met with host Poland in the first round, it seemed to have compassion for the lesser rival, and the result was a tie. Against the Czech Republic, perhaps the Greek team recalled its important victory en route to its magical 2004 triumph, and so a loss resulted. When it came to Russia, winning was critical to the Greek team, and so they played to their full potential. Beating Germany is more than critical; it is a national necessity.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.