Continuing his pieces on the men’s GB Football Team reformed for the London 2012 Olympics, Tom Bodell reports on tonight’s win against the UAE at Wembley Stadium.
Team GB upped their performance in a 3-1 victory over an impressive United Arab Emirates side tonight, that for a frustrating second-half period looked like they would become the second side to take points from Stuart Pearce’s side in the London 2012 Olympic football.
With three changes from the side which stuttered to a draw in their opening group game against Senegal, Team GB were much more fluid from the off with round pegs put to use in round holes.
Micah Richards moving to a more natural right-back position in place of Ryan Bertrand was as important defensively as it was offensively as the Manchester City bruiser was able to get forward and provide support to Ryan Giggs down the right-hand side.
West Ham United defender James Tomkins came in at centre-half and immediately looked more comfortable at the heart of Great Britain’s defence than Richards had during either of his two outings in the same position.
In midfield, the inclusion of Aaron Ramsey ahead of Danny Rose meant a change to 4-5-1/4-3-3 but brought not only a more talented ball player into the side, but a clear game plan which Pearce’s troops used effectively throughout the first-half.
It was clear from early on that the UAE defenders were petrified by Team GB’s pace, and with Craig Bellamy and Ryan Giggs playing wide supporting Marvin Sordell as a lone front-man, Great Britain broke with pace and created a number of opportunities.
The Gulf outfit were not to be completely outdone though and after impressing despite defeat to Uruguay in their opener, the UAE kept the ball well, preaching the discipline of pass and move coherently as a unit.
Great Britain’s opener, nodded home coolly by Giggs was indicative of the positive impact the Welsh quartet were having on the game; Bellamy crossing for his countryman to score the opener.
Without wishing to sound like a biased Watford supporter, Sordell impressed during the first-half before strangely being withdrawn at half-time. The Bolton Wanderers forward played surprisingly well as a lone-forward – not something he was comfortable with during his time in WD18. Like all good line-leaders the Brent-born forward worked tirelessly and selflessly to bring his team mates into play time and time again.
Eventually, and almost inevitably, Team GB lost their way a bit and the UAE bagged a deserved equaliser. They might not have hammered the British goal like Senegal did on Thursday, but the overall quality of their play and ball retention certainly deserved a Rashed Eisa goal on the hour.
With 19 minutes left on the clock I was calling for the introduction of Scott Sinclair to stretch the play and put the opposing defenders on the back. To my surprise, Pearce answered my prayers and delivered the Swansea winger who promptly put Team GB back in front with his first touch. Whilst there was little else of note from the former Chelsea youngster, a front three of him, Bellamy and Sturridge would certainly be an intriguing prospect and definitely one which would put the wind up and defence lacking in the pace department.
The decision to remove Sordell was strange, unless there was an unknown injury, the introduction of Daniel Sturridge worked superbly for Pearce. The Chelsea forward brought more pace to the front line and by the time he had moved into the middle to spearhead the 4-3-3, he terrorised the UAE defence to score a sublime chip.
Top of Group A after two rounds of fixtures and a point ahead of final group game opponents Uruguay, it’s all going alarmingly well so far.
The Substantive Football Columnist Mel Gomes’ new e-book ‘Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley’ is now available to preview and download from Amazon and Smashwords. With past recollections of matches including Clasicos, Milan Derbies and Diego Maradona’s one appearance at White Hart Lane, it covers a journey over land and sea in the 2010-11 Champions League. New, independent writing on popular culture, it is being backed by The Substantive.