Maybe, just maybe, a British football team is not such a bad idea after all.
Team GB have qualified on top and undefeated in their group; is it too soon to start dreaming about a gold medal?
After original skepticism, it seems the Island is finally warming to a unified football team—even England manager Roy Hodgson was present to attend the event.
Stuart Pearce’s men triumphed over Uruguay at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in front of a crowd whose enthusiasm for the team is slowly growing.
Fittingly, and as has become the norm, it was GB’s Welsh contingent that guided the Brits into the Quarter Finals.
Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey and Craig Bellamy were the team’s stand out performers, but it was Daniel Sturridge’s decisive strike that claimed the three points.
There was a much improved cohesive quality about Pearce’s team, reflected by their dominance in possession for much of the game. There was fluidity in their passing and a sharpness in their off-the-ball runs that was not present in their previous three games.
The game itself started in a purposeful fashion.
After six minutes Craig Bellamy was wreaking havoc against Uruguay’s back four. A perfectly placed cross found the head of Scott Sinclair; if the Englishman kept his eye on the ball, his header might have found the net.
Great link up play by Bellamy and Ramsey almost brought about the match opener 10 minutes later. Despite being surrounded by two defenders in the corner, a clever ball found Aaron Ramsey in a yard of space. The Arsenal midfielder took two touches before delivering a teasing cross that went by untouched as it whizzed across the six yard box.
Scott Sinclair’s run found Joe Allen in Uruguay’s six yard box. A fantastic turn from the Welshman wrong footed two Uruguayan defenders in their own six yard box, leaving the simplest of tap-ins for Daniel Sturridge.
The goal allowed GB to claim a slender lead on the cusp of half time.
One minute into the second half, Joe Allen and Craig Bellamy combined superbly to set up a peach of an opportunity for Sinclair to convert. The Swansea winger missed, but his blushes were spared courtesy of the linesman’s flag.
Defence does however remain a concern for Team GB, despite earning their first clean sheet. Sebastian Coates’ effortless header after 22 minutes was a fearsome warning of what could happen if James Tomkins and Steven Caulker fail to start communicating with one another. The 6' 6'' defender was allowed to get his shot underway without being tested.
Uruguay were largely lifeless for much of the game, with Luis Suarez their only real bright spark.
The first of several opportunities came to the Liverpool striker after 30 minutes. A great ball from the centre of midfield met the controversial striker’s feet two yards into the penalty area, but a well-timed challenge from Micah Richards deflected the shot into Jack Butland’s hands.
It was a fantastic save from Jack Butland on the 64th minute that denied the hungry Uruguayan once again. The Birmingham shot stopper spared Stephen Caulker’s blushes after the Liverpool striker effortlessly glided past him and towards goal.
Were it not for the Birmingham shot stopper’s reactions and quick support from the remainder of Britain’s defence, the final 35 minutes of the game could have been a lot more uncomfortable for Team GB.
Butland came to the rescue once again 20 minutes later. The young keeper, who was present during England’s Euro 2012 campaign, got down low to save an unchallenged goal-bound shot from Luis Suarez.
A superlative effort from Ramirez almost denied GB a point on the cusp of full time. The midfielder struck a spectacular effort from outside the area that glided towards the top right hand corner of Butland’s goal.
The diving goalkeeper was beaten, but his clean sheet was saved courtesy of the cross bar. GB’s defence, however, was inefficient, and a free kick was awarded to Uruguay just outside the area with seconds to go.
Luis Suarez had the honour of taking the set piece, which turned out to be the final touch of the game. Despite clearing the wall and getting the shot on target, Jack Butland made a comfortable save by diving to his right.
Next up for Team GB is a Quarter Final against South Korea.