After a period of reflection, Craig Bellamy, 34, has decided to end his international career with Wales at the completion of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying.
"I'm just grateful for every game I've been lucky enough to play for my country, and I really mean that," said Bellamy ahead of the upcoming fixtures against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Belgium. "It's an honour to play for your country at any level, at any sport." The Cardiff City AFC striker will wear the red of Wales on home soil for the final time on Friday, poignantly at his own club's stadium, before Chris Coleman's side visit Group A leaders Belgium on Tuesday to conclude their campaign.
Bellamy is one booking away from suspension, but the risk of missing the Brussels trip will not change his approach against FYROM. Bellamy has always had a passion for representing his country over the last 15 years, amassing 76 caps and 19 goals. However, like many great Welsh names before him – most recently Ryan Giggs – he will never grace a major tournament.
Indeed Wales's last major finals was the 1958 World Cup. John Charles was the talisman of the age, but over the last decade that particular mantle has fallen on Bellamy's shoulders. His finest hour in a Wales shirt came in 2002, when he scored the winner in a UEFA EURO 2004 qualifier against Italy at the Millennium Stadium.
John Toshack handed him the captaincy on a permanent basis following the retirement of Giggs in 2007. Four years later, in November 2011, came Bellamy's lowest ebb when his international manager and close friend Gary Speed died aged 42. The former midfielder's unexpected passing had a profound effect on Bellamy, though the forward stayed committed to the cause under successor Coleman.
While Wales enter their two remaining games bottom of Group A, Bellamy is predicting brighter days ahead thanks to a group of players that boasts the talents of Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale. "
I have to do what's best for the national team and this group of players are the future," he added. "I have to cut myself short."
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