Great Britain Olympic Soccer Team: 5 Areas to Improve Against Uruguay
It was yet another unconvincing display by Stuart Pearce’s men as they struggled past the UAE, yet they find themselves in a surprisingly strong position in Group A.
With Uruguay inexplicably falling to Senegal, GB now only need a draw in their final game to guarantee qualification to the knockout stages.
They owe thanks to two much needed substitutions that refreshed a side who had run out of ideas.
There were more positives to come out of the game, especially with fancied Spain already out of the competition and Uruguay now on the brink of following them home—however, if GB are to challenge for the gold, they must improve in plenty of areas both on and off the pitch.
Here are five of them.
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There is a worrying trend developing against teams they should really be beating comfortably.
Twice now GB have taken the lead, and twice they have conceded an equalizer in the second half.
Of course there are going to be times where the opposition threaten, especially at international level, but there is a distinct lack of urgency when GB have gone ahead.
It seems they are more than happy to sit back, control the possession and take an opportunity if and when it presents itself.
In both games, that opportunity has failed to materialize, and they have paid the penalty.
Pearce needs to drill into his players the importance of the second goal.
They have their home crowd behind them, and it’s not too much to ask for elite players to keep on pressing in search for that all important No. 2.
Of course it’s not a guarantee, but at the same time, there has to be a certain amount of ambition shown.
They have played their “get out of jail free card” twice now, and a third time may be a tough ask, especially as the quality of opposition will dramatically improve as the tournament progresses.
The two games so far have not been classics by any stretch of the imagination, and Pearce owes it to their new fanbase to entertain as much as possible.
4) Stop Relying on the Welsh
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English players need to start stepping up their own performances on the pitch because at the moment Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Joe Allen are carrying the team.
Not only have they scored the majority of the goals and provided assists, their general work rate and will to win is visibly greater than many of their team mates.
Maybe this has to do with the personal importance of the tournament? Realistically, it’s the best chance many of the Welsh have of winning a major trophy especially for the aging Giggs and Bellamy.
However, that’s still no excuse for some of the others in the team. Wherever it ranks on the scale, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many, and they should take it with both hands.
With David Beckham looking on during the last game, he must wonder along with the other 65,000 fans how Micah Richards got the last over-age playing spot on the team.
That’s not to say he’s not a good player, but his performances so far have been average, to put it mildly.
Wastefully gave the ball away leading to the equalizer, he has to step it up in the latter stages if GB want to go deep in the tournament.
At club level, he would almost certainly be facing some bench time under Roberto Manchini, but that won’t happen here, especially with the furor around Pearce’s squad selection.
He’s not the only one, though. James Tomkins has been really bad, while Tom Cleverley needs to assert himself on the game more.
3) Fitness Levels
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It’s a difficult decision who and who not to rest in the final Group game.
Giggs and Bellamy have been GB’s best two players to date but they unsurprisingly tired during the second half of games, especially during the win over the UAE.
That’s to be expected with the games coming so quickly during an international tournament, and I’m sure Stuart Pearce will have hoped to have already qualified by now with the six points available.
But following their opening draw with Senegal, they still need a point against Uruguay to guarantee qualification.
So do you risk having your best two players on the bench and trust a fitter XI to get the job done? Or do you play them and hope to get the result they’re looking for while risking their fitness for later in the tournament?
I would like to think the quality of players in the squad should be good enough to at least pick up a point against a Uruguay team who were beaten by Senegal—after all that’s why you pick a squad.
However, I suspect Pearce will play both of his tiring Welsh veterans—let’s hope it doesn’t hinder them in the latter stages.
2) Disjointed Defence
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Jack Butland had a much improved display against UAE, but the same could not be said for the back four that played in front of him.
While Micah Richards is given license to maraud up and down the right hand side with little regard of defensive duties, Neil Taylor was the polar opposite and looked confused as to what role he had.
At times, GB played with a flat back three, but with the continuing struggles of James Tomkins who again was at fault for the goal, it was more like a back two at times.
Pearce will need to get back some cohesion in defence which may mean a slightly less attacking Richards and, more importantly, a replacement for Tomkins.
1) National Anthem
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The Welsh players non-singing is becoming an unnecessary sideshow, but one that is only going to escalate further as GB travel to Cardiff for their final Group game with Uruguay.
Whether it’s the right thing for the players to remain stony faced as “God Save Our Gracious Queen” belts out over the speakers, the situation needs to be addressed.
But the precedent has now been set, and it looks like it’s a premeditated pact by Team Wales to stay silent.
While I personally don’t have a problem with it, I don’t see why it would hurt some of the players to lip sync a couple of the lines as the camera pans across their faces for all of two seconds—especially giving the nation has paid them so very well throughout their careers.
However, with the game being played in Cardiff, the focus may be taken off the payers slightly and put onto the fans. Fears are there will be plenty of booing throughout the anthem—it will be a sad indictment of society today if that happens.
And a word to Mr Pearce: If you know the like of Giggs and Bellamy are going to refuse to sing the anthem you so passionately belted out during your playing career, maybe don’t select them as your captain and vice-captain?
Less focus off the pitch and more attention on it please!