GB Football: Quarter-Final

Tom Bodell, who has been looking at the GB Football’s men’s team since their reformation, reports on their Quarter-Final exit in an otherwise great day for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics today.

Whilst Team GB have eased into the men’s football tournament, gradually improving game-by-game, tonight’s quarter final clash with South Korea certainly bucked the trend as Team GB reverted to type and put in a stuttering display through 120 minutes before crashing out 5-4 on penalties.

Stuart Pearce’s side were largely disappointing throughout, and whilst the South Korean’s goal owed a lot to the misjudgement of goalkeeper Jack Butland, the hosts were equally lucky to get on the score sheet when Aaron Ramsey’s penalty squirmed under the Korean stopper Sungryong Jung.

It was evident from the outset that the South Koreans were a step up from the sides that GB faced in the group stage. The Koreans were competent on the ball and kept the ball well during the first half, in stark contrast to Britain who struggled to keep the ball on the deck for the most part and completely and utterly failed to make the final pass throughout.

Daniel Sturridge ploughed the lone furrow through the middle manfully, but was hardly in a position to thrive off of the continual long-ball service. That said, the first Team GB opening did actually come from a long ball knocked into Sturridge who was able to chest the ball back into the path of Ryan Bertrand who lashed comfortably over.

By the time the visitors did open the scoring in the 24th minute, it was somewhat inevitable. After a spell of impressive ball retention, Sunderland striker Ji Dong-Won beat Butland from outside the area with a speculative strike which could have been stopped. Butland has impressed so far during the Games, but this goal was most definitely a blot on his copybook, the timing of his dive seeing the ball fly over his outstretched hands and into the corner of the net.

The penalty award looked harsh in my book, and as Jake Humphrey rightly pointed out at half-time, where else could the defender’s arm of been? The reality is that when you go to ground to make a sliding block, your arms will not stick rigidly by your side; therefore I personally wouldn’t have given the spot-kick. After all, it wasn’t likely that Bertrand’s scuffed right-footed effort was ever going to trouble Jung in the South Korean goal.

A second penalty just a handful of minutes later was rightly awarded when Sturridge was clattered trying to control Scott Sinclair’s clever pass. However, the question has to be asked as to whether Sturridge actually had, or would have got the ball under control. On the replay it certainly looked a lot like the ball had evaded the Chelsea striker who was certainly on the receiving end of contact nonetheless.

Taking two penalties in one game is always hard, especially with both kicks coming so close to one another, and, after his poor first penalty, I would undoubtedly have instructed Craig Bellamy to take the penalty. The Liverpool striker has taken penalties throughout his career and stepping forward to take the kick would have relieved Ramsey of the pressure of trying to out-psyche Jung for the second time in just a matter of minutes. To nobody’s surprise, Ramsey missed the resulting penalty.

Whilst chances were few and far between for Team GB, South Korea enjoyed a number of guilt-edged chances which should have sent Britain packing. Goalscorer Ji was particularly lively, missing two excellent headed chances at 1-1.

Extra-time brought little change from what had gone before, Team GB failing to trouble the substitute Korean ‘keeper Bumyoung Lee. The Koreans, despite looking fitter than the British, spent long periods grounded awaiting treatment for cramp.

One positive to take from the penalty shoot-out was that Butland, surely a future England ‘keeper, has now taken part in an international shoot-out; experience which will surely stand him in good stead during his England career when the inevitable happens every four years!

The Korean penalties were exemplary, leaving the Birmingham City ‘keeper helpless on each occasion, Team GB faultless until the last themselves, typically let down by an Englishmen after both Welsh takers in the initial five buried their spot-kicks without complication.

South Korea head through to face Brazil in the semi-finals, and despite scoring just three goals throughout the duration of the tournament, one feels they will be worthier opposition against the Selecao.

Will Team GB be back in four years time or not, that’s the question now…

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.