So ahead of Team GB taking on South Korea tonight in the Olympic quarter-final I thought I’d share my experience seeing the Brits (is that their nickname?) when they qualified against Uruguay on wednesday.
After the mandatory amount of time being lost, we arrived at the Millennium Stadium – and I’ve got to say, it is one tasty stadium. At just over 74,000 it’s pretty mammoth and got within a few Ks of being max capacity which gave a great atmosphere.
The first game was Mexico vs Switzerland, and there was reasonable support for the Mexicans in (which culminated in an infinite Mexican wave). The central Americans scored in the second half after enduring a pressurising first, then cruised to victory. They possessed a perfected level of close control, confidence in playing a passing game, and good pressing. Switzerland however possessed very little bar some misfiring forwards.
For what seemed a fairly relaxed game, the polarised final whistle emotions were strong and evident; the Mexican contingent went mental as the players applauded their own qualification, while the eliminated Swiss made a quick exit… bar one devastated player:
As the stadium began to fill, you could feel a level of optimism among the fans that GB would be following Mexico. In between a mash of attire (English football shirts, Welsh rugby shirts, all manner of Prem shirts) there was a sea of Union Jack paraphernalia. A fair portion of Uruguay’s small population had also made the journey and occupied a stand to themselves.
There was a bit of tension before the anthems, especially among English supporters like myself. Those who have been following the games know that the Welsh players don’t sing ‘God Save the Queen’, preferring to stay quiet as they normally sing “Old Land of My Fathers” – the Welsh anthem. There was a bit of booing while me and the other Englishmen sung the anthem but nothing too bad.
The Uruguayan fans did take some offense to the booing that occurred during their anthem, although it wasn’t so much down to their nationality – more something to do with a certain captain’s appearance on the screens…
Uruguay playing a 4-2-3-1 with pantomime villain Suarez linking up top, started quite strongly and had the majority of the chances in the opening 45. But the one that counted came for GB in the 46th minute. A lovely piece of composure from Joe Allen resulted in an excellent pass leaving Sturridge with a tap in.
After that GB hit their stride. Sturridge somehow managed to hit the post from point-blank and Bellamy must’ve had a 100% winning rate against Uruguay’s left back. Watching the team develop from their first abysmal friendly against Mexico has been a unique experience – it isn’t often you see an international team formed in a few weeks.
Pearce has come under some unfair criticism from the David Beckham Fanclub, but has made a credible football team. The midfield three of Allen, Ramsey, and Cleverly blew my mind in Cardiff – I couldn’t believe the football I was seeing from a British team, it wouldn’t have been out of place to compare them to Spain at times.
The team performed to at least the sum of its parts, which is more than we can say of the senior England team in recent times.
Craig Bellamy received a standing ovation on his departure that was only a maximum of 50% due to his nationality, he was the player who made you leave your seat when he touched the ball. Sturridge and Sinclair were both good too, the Chelsea man challenging Campana in goal several times. And although Luis Suarez caused them some problems, the back four look like a dynamic set, even when the Liverpool dribble merchant did make it through, Butland was equal to him all night. Bar the crossbar hit.
Overall it was a fun game and a great day out. There were plenty of families out with their children experiencing a football game for the first time, which is perhaps something you don’t get during late games at other levels. GB put in an impressive performance and the Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura exerted such control over the game he could be contender for man of the match, I honestly haven’t seen a ref have such a good game since Collina.
The Olympic games are receiving fantastic support in England, and in some part I do feel that is down to the re-formation of the football team. The nation are united in their love for football and in giving them a team they can get behind, the committee really galvanised the support for the entire event. GB! GB! GB!