Team GB Olympic Soccer Team: 6 Players Who Must Be at Their Best to Win Gold
Great Britain's Olympic football team carry high hopes for a home gold medal at the London Games.
Captained by Ryan Giggs, Stuart Pearce's squad boasts plenty of experience at the highest level and should benefit from partisan support in all their matches.
Here's their schedule for the group stages:
Team GB vs. Senegal, Old Trafford, July 26
Team GB vs. United Arab Emirates, Wembley, July 29
Team GB vs. Uruguay, Millennium Stadium, August 1
Should Pearce's men make it through Group A, they'll face a quarterfinal meeting with one of teams to progress from Group B—to come from Mexico, Korea Republic, Gabon and Switzerland.
From there you'd expect to see Spain and Brazil factor from the other half of the draw, so it won't be easy to come out on top. If Team GB are to stand a chance of winning gold, here are six men who need to perform.
Liverpool forward Craig Bellamy is one of Team GB's three over-age players in their squad of 18.
The 33-year-old Welshman will get his first taste of major tournament international football at the Olympics and will be desperate to seize his moment.
Judging by the team Pearce sent out for GB's closed-doors friendly with Mexico, Bellamy will likely be stationed out on the left and tasked with supporting the front two.
His contribution will be vital to Team GB's attacking threat. Bellamy brings pace and invention, and also a wealth of experience to calm those around him. If he plays to his full potential, Bellamy could be one of the stars of the tournament.
The only question is whether his injury-ravaged body with hold up to the intense schedule of matches.
Jack Butland will be Team GB's starting goalkeeper at the Olympics.
The 19-year-old has played just 24 professional games—all for Cheltenham Town in League Two—but is widely viewed as the best young keeper in England and earned a late call-up to Roy Hodgson's Euro 2012 squad.
Butland didn't play at the Euros, but the experience will have helped prepare him for the intense media glare and pressures incumbent with his Team GB selection.
If he displays his full potential, Team GB could have a match-winner on their hands. If he cracks, Butland could be their downfall.
Great Britain captain Ryan Giggs has been there, seen it, done it with Manchester United. Twelve Premier League titles and two Champions League successes make the 38-year-old well versed in what it takes to win things.
But this is different. Like his countryman Craig Bellamy, Giggs has never been given the opportunity to excel on the international stage and will view the Olympics as his last chance to put that right.
Likely to operate in central midfield, Giggs will be tasked with setting the tempo for Team GB and ensuring they keep their shape. He'll lead by example on the field and be there to offer the wisdom of his 20-year career off it.
Don't rule out his threat from set-pieces either.
Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey was a mainstay in the Premier League last season and appears a likely starter for Stuart Pearce's Team GB.
The 21-year-old Welshman was used in an advanced central role against Mexico and is certainly capable of providing some attacking spark in the final third.
If Ramsey plays to potential he could have a big influence in delivering Team GB's medal hopes.
Manchester City defender Micah Richards will be out to prove a point at the Olympics.
The powerful 24-year-old was left out of Roy Hodgson's squad for Euro 2012 despite playing his part in City's run to the Premier League title.
He has a shot at redemption as one of Stuart Pearce's three over-age players at London 2012 and should be a certain starter—either at right-back on in central defense.
Richards gives Team GB physical presence at the back and if stationed on the right can burst forward to support in attack.
Daniel Sturridge may not make the Olympics. The Chelsea forward is recovering from viral meningitis and faces a late fitness to decide whether he's worth the risk.
Should he come through it, Sturridge could yet prove one of the stars of the men's Olympics tournament. The 22-year-old has demonstrated his elusive running and eye for goal in the Premier League, and could potentially be the man to fire Team GB to glory.