Team GB’s men beat Uruguay 1-0 in the London 2012 Olympic Games final group match to qualify for the knock-out stages. Daniel Sturridge netted his second goal of the Games to take Stuart Pearce‘s side through to the quarter final, matching the achievement of Hope Powell‘s ladies on Tuesday. Despite a shaky start, which saw the British side draw 1-1 with Senegal, and a narrow 3-1 win over the United Arab Emirates, Team GB have managed to win their group to set up a meeting with South Korea.
With Team GB having just moved ahead of the Republic of Korea in the medal table – courtesy of Victoria Pendleton – the game will feature the third and fourth placed nations. It is an intriguing clash.
Interestingly, Pearce has already admitted that the lower level of interest, hype and expectation surrounding Team GB, particularly compared to that imposed every four and two years on the England national football team, is benefiting his players. The head coach said: “There has been a level slant on the expectation on this team. Probably that expectation level should be like that with the England national team in some ways.”
Pearce may well be right with his astute observations. Had Roy Hodgson‘s England drawn 1-1 with Senegal and narrowly squeaked past the United Arab Emirates, the natives would be well and truly restless. As it is, however, Team GB’s next encounter, a knock-out one, has sold out at Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium. An indicator of support, most certainly, and perhaps a more subtle confidence in the side following the Uruguay match.
Speaking to the BBC, Pearce added: “We have kept under the radar but know the magnitude of what is in front of us. I think by getting out of the group we have achieved what people outside the squad expected of us.
“We’ve got a scenario now where we have got to advance further and the players are excited by that. They can see what we did on the training pitch a couple of weeks ago in Spain bearing fruit in match situations.”
Captain against the Uruguayans, Craig Bellamy and young up-and-coming goalkeeper Jack Butland have stood out for Team GB, while Daniel Sturridge is increasingly finding himself among the goals. From rather inauspicious beginnings, the team are beginning to gel (although how much gelling is required by a nearly all-English side is debatable). Japan, Egypt, Mexico, Senegal, Brazil and Honduras are also featuring in the quarter-finals, which for Team GB will face a very different sort of challenge.
There have been so many obstacles for the Team GB men’s football side to avoid. Firstly, the nationality question: with so few players drawn from Wales and none from Scotland or Northern Ireland, can it really be called a united British side? Secondly, there has been the sluggish start, and the general perception among Olympic snobs that football cannot be considered a worthwhile and comparably merit-worthy endeavour at the Games. It can, and after the match tomorrow, a few of the sceptics may be eating their words. Or pouring scorn over all those that believed from day one in Pearce and his boys.
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