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Pearce rounds on critics of Olympic tournament

Pearce said Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who do not want their players to represent Britain, were wrong and added the tournament could capture the public's imagination in the same way as Euro 96 when he played for England.

Addressing the Soccerex business convention, Pearce told delegates: "It is a really exciting tournament for me and probably is one of the most exciting tournaments to take place for players in this age group ever.

"It is on home soil and the only tournament I played on home soil was Euro 96 which was probably the best experience I had as a footballer and as a man... it just went off the Richter scale really.

"And if we have some form of success in the Olympics I am sure the country will go absolutely wild."

Britain last took part in the Olympic finals in Rome in 1960, while the team played in the qualifiers until 1972.

It then abandoned the tournament partly because of a change in the rules on amateurism and also because of the growing reluctance of the Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland FAs to supply players to the team as they feared it would jeopardise their independence within FIFA.

World football's governing body have assured them their places are secure but they have still not given their backing to the Olympic squad for this summer and are unhappy their players might be selected.

Men's Olympic teams are for players under 23 with three over-age players allowed.

Although Pearce has not yet named his squad a number of veterans have been touted as possible candidates including Welshman Ryan Giggs, 38 and former England skipper David Beckham, 37 in May.

The men's tournament comprises 16 teams and the women's 12 with football kicking off in Cardiff two days before the official opening of the Games which begin on July 27.