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Bellamy savours "incredible" Olympic experience
1:56pm Thursday 2nd August 2012 in Sport
Craig Bellamy is grateful to the Olympic experience for helping to cast aside the shadow of negativity that accompanied Great Britain's participation in the football tournament.
Victory over Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium last night – where Saints midfielder Jack Cork made his third sub appearance of the tournament - booked a quarter-final with South Korea on Saturday.
Another packed house is guaranteed, cementing football's status as the number one ticket seller at London 2012.
Not only that, on last night's evidence, Stuart Pearce's men can count on the unqualified backing of the Welsh public too, given the National Anthem was impeccably observed.
Plenty had suggested otherwise. And Bellamy understands why.
He is just glad the whole atmosphere around the Olympics shows there is an alternative.
"We are brilliant at finding the negatives," he said.
"Unfortunately that is our culture.
"It is not the media. That is what we are. You serve us. You feed us. That is what we want.
"But at these GB games there is a lot to be proud of.
"It has been an incredible experience. To have been involved in just a tiny little fraction and see how much people want you to do well has been huge.
"It can be a difficult life sometimes. The abuse you can receive, or the praise, which is not quite realistic. You have to learn to have broad shoulders.
"But this has been fantastic. It really has. It has been a pleasure to be involved."
In truth, as professional sportsmen, the GB squad would probably have been interested in the exploits of Bradley Wiggins and Rebecca Adlington anyway.
But their experiences feel so much more real for having shared the same space, albeit for a brief time as the football tournament has required them to move around so much.
"We watch everything," said Bellamy. "That is why the Olympics are so great.
"From the moment you wake up there are so many different events and you want to get behind them all.
"To wear the same badges and kit it is just brilliant."
Such is the English influence on Pearce's squad, particularly in the backroom staff, that it is sometimes easy to forget there is a significant Welsh presence in the GB squad.
Apart from the accent, that means a significant difference in attitude, which Bellamy highlighted when he was asked about the prospect of facing hot favourites Brazil in a semi-final next week when he knew South Korea must be navigated in Cardiff on Saturday night first.
"That is you English," he said.
"You look too far ahead. That is what you lot do. That's why you struggle. I watch England fans sometimes and see the way they react and think 'be careful, you could go out in the next game'.
"It is brilliant that football can generate that buzz. But also there is luck. Even going into injury-time last night, I didn't think we were through.
"I am Welsh. I don't think we are going to come second or third or whatever. I just want to try and beat South Korea."
In any case, for all their free-scoring, free-flowing football, which has, following the surprise departures of Spain and Uruguay, seen them understandably installed as overwhelming favourites, Brazil are not the team Bellamy has been most impressed with so far.
"It's Japan," he said.
"They are such a good team and their work ethic is admirable.
"They are the benchmark and we have to work like them. That is the standard we must reach in this tournament.
"It is difficult for European teams. Look at Spain. We are three weeks into pre-season.
"But we have the legs and we have the quality. And luckily, it is coming out in abundance."