Having topped the group and qualified for the quarter-finals of the Olympics, Team GB can certainly take some pride in their efforts so far at London 2012. The first football team from Great Britain for 40 years may not have set the world alight with some lacklustre performances but they have progressed through the competition and have every chance of claiming a medal.
A place on the podium may be overcrowded in team sports but a top three finish would justify the decision to reform the side after so many years, despite various controversies that surrounded the initial build up. The omission of David Beckham and lack of Irish and Scottish representation aside, Team GB’s results have proven why having a united football team was an inspired idea but given the lack of motivation exhibited by players and the underwhelming football on offer, can a British team really last or is it just a novelty in honour of having the tournament on home shores?
For starters all football fans will have enjoyed having some extra action to get their teeth into but the standard of competition has not been up to scratch. Not only has the British team been cobbled together at the last minute but they have had little preparation and the majority of the squad appear to be tired and unmoved by proceedings. It should be considered criminal for any professional sportsman to fail to be inspired by the Olympics but with football, an under-23 themed International competition doesn’t exactly represent the pinnacle of the beautiful game. As such players do not seem as enthusiastic as they should be and the turgid performances witnessed by fans are testament to a drop in standards from the weekly hustle and bustle of the Premier League.
International football has always provided a different style of play and it’s not only Team GB who have seemed below par but their side is made up almost entirely of players plying their trade in the English top flight and they should therefore be dominating matches against the likes of UAE and Senegal. Instead they seem incapable of raising their game beyond doing only what is required of them and had it not been for Craig Bellamy’s passionate influence then the team could easily have bowed out of the competition with a whimper. A conflict of motivations appear to have affected the team and despite some players being inspired by their Olympic opportunity, there are many who seem far more concerned with the upcoming opening weekend of the Premier League and are happy to simply go through motions. Further, domestic managers seem unwilling to release their top stars so Stuart Pearce will feel his squad could have been far stronger had he been allowed to call up the names he originally wanted. Instead players like Gareth Bale have sidestepped the competition and Pearce has been left with a group of players whose intentions are unclear plus a mix and match of Welsh and English stars but no Scottish or Irish, which is hardly indicative of a Great Britain team. While Pearce’s hands are clean as his squad choices were largely based on the talent available to him, another concern is that fans from the unappreciated nations are unlikely to fully get behind the side and with so many problems already surrounding the viability of Team GB, plus the low key atmospheres and sluggish performances, many are wondering if they will ever see a Great Britain football team again in future Olympics.
Having been without a Team GB since 1972 and failed to qualify for the main tournament since 1960, it would appear the opportunity to have a home nations style side was a novelty that officials could not refuse, but regardless of various derivative reasons to dismiss the squad, fans have still turned out in their numbers to watch their heroes and ultimately the team have reached the knock-out stages. Given the manner with which the team struggled through their group, a winnable game against Korea Republic should not be smirked at, but they seem to be finding their feet with every match they play together and should be able to reach the semi-finals for a likely showdown with favourites Brazil. There would be little shame in losing to the strongest side in the competition plus they could still claim a bronze medal and become the most successful British football team ever. It may not be UEFA Champions League but such achievements are still finite in the career of professional footballers and Bellamy has already stated his pride in being the first British goal scorer in decades, so why not take satisfaction from being an Olympic medal winner?
The summit of sporting achievement is the Olympics but sports like football always have difficulty persuading partaking members who are not as committed to the cause while fans allegiances are also less devoted, especially when it’s an integrated Great Britain. Before the tournament started few would have batted an eyelid if the team had fallen flat on their face, but the reality is they have performed admirably enough so far and have the potential to improve still further. A bronze medal may not be enough to encourage players and fans that the Olympics is an important tournament but becoming the most successful side in British history should still warrant a concerted effort from the team and an impressive performance this summer could be the catalyst for future generations to fully get behind a unified Great Britain football team.
Is Team GB a novelty or will they compete at future games? Do fans feel connected to the British side or are they more concerned with domestic action?
Let me know your views and opinions by following me on Twitter – Tweet me @Alex_Churcher