Great Britain vs. Senegal Is Must-Win for Continually Disappointing British Team

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2012

Photo Credit: Scott Heppell/AP
Photo Credit: Scott Heppell/AP

After a listless tune-up performance against Brazil, Team GB––Great Britain's conflated Olympic soccer squad––cannot afford to get off to a slow start in their opening match vs. Senegal.

There's always disproportionately high expectations for British soccer teams, owing to the country's manic fanaticism and belief that they are Europe's (and by extension, the world's) mecca of footy.

But the results have always tended to disagree with that thesis, with British sides continuing to underachieve in major competitions. And while much was initially expected from the upstart Team GB, those expectations have been tempered into realistic reservations after watching the team get demolished by the Brazilians.

Which makes Thursday night's Olympic opener against Senegal exponentially more important. They need to get the fans back on their side.

As the automatically qualifying host, Great Britain is being represented in the Olympics for the first time since 1960—a 52-year wait that has made the nation understandably apprehensive. And given the recent success of African sides in Olympic competition, the crowd is sure to be on the edge of its seat.

Check out the top-placing African team from the past five Olympics:

Year Country Result
Beijing 2008 Nigeria Silver
Athens 2004 Mali QF
Sydney 2000 Cameroon Gold
Atlanta 1996 Nigeria Gold
Barcelona 1992 Ghana Bronze

The scariest part about the African squads (other than their speed) is their volatility; it's seemingly impossible to predict which nation will rise to the occasion and play like a medal contender.

Great Britain clearly has the more talented squad, boasting players like Ryan Giggs (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea) and Tom Cleverley (Manchester United)––among many, many other top-flight club players.

But if Senegal is able to play counterattacking football and steal a win, things could get very morbid very quickly in England. With Uruguay also looming in the group, there's a chance that a loss Thursday night could have them scrambling just to advance to the knockout round.

And if that's the way it shakes out, another 52 years wont be long enough for the GBR hooligans to forgive this squad.