The more medals Great Britain have hauled in during the last few days, the more Stuart Pearce has enjoyed it; and not just because the coach of the men's football team is a noted patriot. He believes that all the attention elsewhere, together with a certain scepticism about the Olympic football tournament in British circles, has helped his squad remain "under the radar".
Having played in front of crowds averaging 70,000 for their three group matches, that may appear an odd suggestion, but it is true that football has not hogged the back pages – or the front of the many sports sections – as normal. Indeed, a slow start with the 1-1 draw against Senegal further diminished expectations, which Pearce believes has been beneficial in the subsequent victories over United Arab Emirates and Uruguay that earned tonight's quarter-final against South Korea at the Millennium Stadium.
"There's a level slant on the expectations of the team and probably in some ways it should be like that with England," he said. "It has been good for us and has kept our heads under the radar." Winning tonight would change that to some extent, in all likelihood bringing a semi-final against Brazil at Old Trafford on Tuesday and a three-in-four chance of winning a medal; losing semi-finalists play off for bronze in Cardiff next Friday.
The quarter-finals offer a cosmopolitan field in which Britain are the only European survivors. South Korea qualified with a low-scoring run of results against Mexico (0-0), Switzerland (2-1) and Gabon (0-0), suggesting they may be difficult to break down but may not offer much in attack, where Park Ju-young, little used by Arsenal since joining them last summer, has been preferred to Sunderland's Ji Dong-won. The additional incentive for their players is that an Olympic medal entitles them to avoid two years' compulsory military service. "They've been a really consistent side," Pearce said.
Although maligned in some quarters, Pearce has tournament experience on his side as player and manager, and knows all about the spectre of penalties, which could come into play tonight. His players have been practising them at every training session.
Kick-off 7.30pm, Millennium Stadium (Red button)
Referee W Roldan (Col)
Odds Great Britain Evs Draw 9-4; South Korea 13-5
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- Cardiff (city)
- Millennium Stadium
- South Korea
- United Arab Emirates
- West Africa