One German commentator dubbed it, half in jest, the "ultimate euro stress test". Despite attempts by the German government to play down the broader significance of the Euro 2012 clash with Greece, football historians predicted it would go down as one of the most politically loaded sporting events on record.
It has earned comparisons with the 1969 Olympic ice hockey match between Czechslovakia and the USSR, when the Czechs sought sporting revenge for the Soviet invasion of Prague the previous year; the so-called Blood on the Water match between the USSR and Hungary water polo teams at the 1956 Olympics, against the backdrop of the Hungarian revolution that year against Soviet-imposed policies; and England's encounter with Argentina in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup, four years after the end of the Falklands war.
The tense mood was summed up in German and Greek headlines: "Bye-bye Greeks, we can't rescue you today," blared the German tabloid Bild on its front page, while the Greek paper Sport Day urged: "Bankrupt THEM."
Calling the match "Merkel's most difficult game," Bild's commentator asked whether the German chancellor would dare to cheer a German goal or, out of respect for Greeks who blame her for austerity measures, show more reserve.
Merkel, a passionate football fan for whom it has become something of a tradition to visit her team's dressing room after matches, had persuaded the leaders of Italy, Spain and France to bring forward a eurozone crisis summit in Rome so she could attend the match in Gdansk.
Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a German-Greek MEP with the Free Democrats, warned her to show restraint. "A triumphalist demeanour would not be fitting," he said. Stephan Mayer, of the CSU party, warned German fans against making "humiliating gestures" towards Greek fans. Polish police said they were bracing themselves for unrest after the match.
Those hoping for a more civilised rendezvous turned for inspiration to the Monty Python sketch from 1972 in which the crème de la crème of Greek and German philosophers meet on a football pitch. Thanks to Socrates, Greece ends up as the winner of the Cup of International Philosophy.