Euro 2012 quarter-finalists Greece have had enough of eurozone jokes as well as the ridicule and sharp criticism of their playing style and they are seeking respect ahead of their match against Germany.
The Greeks have had to endure a flood of negative media copy despite battling through Group A with a 1-0 win over favourites Russia to set up a last-eight clash with the three-times champion Germans.
Whether it is the Italian Rai TV commentator's expletive-laden description of Greece causing a stir or German football association officials privately demanding a goalfest against the eurozone's problem child, Greece must be feeling like a pinata at a children's party.
Comic strips depicting a Greek player snatching the referee's coin at the toss-up before the start of a game and shouting "a euro" are a daily occurrence.
Comments regarding the quality of their football has not been much kinder.
"People have been slinging mud at us and we are very sad about what has been said. Against Russia we managed to silence them. Now we must keep quiet and keep working," defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos said.
Keeping quiet would be a wise course of action for a team who qualified undefeated for the tournament, conceding only five goals as any other reaction would merely be a distraction.
"The Greeks deserve more respect," said their coach, Portuguese Fernando Santos.
"We all need to pay a bit more respect to them. It is not appropriate for others to give lessons to the Greeks."
Santos said that the absolute need to win the match against Russia had helped his players overcome their earlier lapses in concentration.
"I think knockout games are good for us because the players concentrate from the start of the game. When it's life-and-death, all or nothing, that has been an advantage for us,'' he said.
That said, Greece have plenty of respect for a Germany side that won all three of their matches in Group B.
"Germany's quality is without question, a team built over time that we all know well... They are an excellent team with an excellent coach,'' Santos said, before adding a frank assessment of his own side.
"We know that we're not the best team in the world. But every opponent we have will have to sweat blood to get past us.''
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|Timothy V. Gatto|