GB Football: Qualification

Tom Bodell continues to chart the progress of the reformed Men’s Great British Football Team, as a victory over Uruguay ensures qualification from the Group Stages at London 2012.

The legendary England manager Sir Alf Ramsey once labelled the Uruguay national side as ‘animals’, on tonight’s showing the World Cup winner’s sentiments are still prevalent 46 years later.

In an encounter between what should have been the two best teams in Group A of the men’s Olympic football, the antics of the South Americans spoiled a game which, on paper, was rightly billed as a crucial clash in the group. In actuality it was a fairly tepid affair, lit up only by the tempestuous nature of Luis Suarez and his band of chums.

I’ve singled Suarez out as an appalling representation of the modern-day footballer, but tonight the Liverpool striker and his team mates out-did themselves. Doubtless, Liverpool fans who think the sun shines out the rear end of their talismanic wind-up merchant will see this as an attack on their unjustly victimised hero, but there is no tribal bias involved.

In the second-half Uruguay appealed wildly for a nothing handball when the ball bounced up and brushed the arm of Joe Allen. With no sense of irony attached, Suarez, the chief protestor, was then booked with the same offence at the second attempt later on.

At every, and I mean every opportunity, Le Celeste were proving to be more effective in trying to wind Great Britain up than they were in actually playing any football – a real shame with players of Suarez or Edinson Cavani’s talent on show. When Craig Bellamy, admittedly no angel himself, was substituted off and handed the captain’s armband to Micah Richards, the visitors swarmed the referee to plead time-wasting; Bellamy was then helped from the field by a Uruguayan with the aid of a shove.

Turning attentions to the football, Team GB enjoyed a large degree of success by getting wide and attacking the Uruguay full-backs.

With Bellamy and Scott Sinclair out wide, they terrorised Uruguay’s full-backs and ultimately scored the game’s only goal after good work down the left from Allen.

Shortly after it would have been 2-0 to Team GB, but for an offside call and an embarrassing finish from goalscorer Daniel Sturridge; a superb first-time delivery from Bellamy being knocked down by Sinclair for the Chelsea forward to somehow turn against the inside of the post.

Sturridge was impressive throughout and has quickly warmed to the Games after an ineffectual 45 minutes in Team GB’s opener against Senegal. The former Manchester City trainee is quickly blasting the myth that he cannot operate as a central striker, scoring his second goal in just shy of 180 minutes of football.

The one concern for Pearce will be the periods that Uruguay did enjoy, particularly around the 60 minute mark in the second-half, a period of every game so far under his management that has been enjoyed by the opposition more than Team GB. Against better teams in the knock-out stages, Britain will have to see those periods through in more convincing fashion if they are to progress.

Saturday will see a return to action for Pearce and co, a clash with a goal-shy South Korea standing between them and the semi-finals.

Tom Bodell

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.