As the Olympics finally come to London at the end of this week after 7 years of preparation, much has been made of the long build up to the games. What has been less talked about however is the likelihood of success for Team GB’s athletes, especially Stuart Pearce’s footballing side.
On Friday night, we got our first glimpse of Team GB in action, and a taste of what to expect at the London 2012 games. Whilst the calibre of opposition isn’t of the same standard England were up against at the European Championships, Brazil demonstrated enough class on Friday for us to assume Stuart Pearce’s men may well have their work cut out at this summer’s games.
Whilst Brazil are one of the favourites for a gold medal, their outclassing of Team GB does not bode well, and one of three experienced players Micah Richards found it difficult to keep up with the trickery of Chelsea target Hulk. With a group that includes Uruguay, Senegal and the United Arab Emirates however, Team GB will not face a team of Brazil’s standard unless they progress from their group.
One thing the Olympics does offer however, is a chance for those British youngsters to experience life on the international scene. The likes of Jack Butland, Daniel Sturridge and Tom Cleverley will no doubt value the experience, although under 23 talent in other squads can probably trump the British youth. Brazil bring along the likes of Neymar, Lucas Moura and Alexandre Pato, whilst Spain have a whole host of under 23 talent, in the shape of Isco, Christian Tello and European Championship winner Jordi Alba.
That said, with the group Stuart Pearce’s men find themselves in, they may well fancy their chances. Aside from a decent looking Uruguay side, the chances of British qualification from the group stages are quite high. However, one thing the friendly against Brazil demonstrated was some poor squad selection on behalf of Pearce, selecting a shaky looking Jason Steele over a highly rated Jack Butland, and selecting three left backs in the starting eleven. Should these basic errors be repeated at the games, no matter of the quality of opposition, they will be picked up on.
Also, with the beginning of the domestic season just around the corner, the timing of the Olympics can be quite problematic for those players more focused on success with their clubs. The risk of injury is something players will no doubt be fearful of, shirking tackles and not running themselves into the ground for their Olympic cause. Other teams present will see the Olympics as a huge opportunity for them to announce themselves on the World footballing stage, and will approach the competition determined.
This may be Team GB’s first footballing appearance at an Olympics in over 50 years, but the likelihood of success may well be dictated by how well they do against other big teams. Progression from their group may be probable, but any achievements after that will be well deserved.