Team Great Britain Olympic Soccer: Winners and Losers from Group Stage
Many expected the Team GB experiment to fail, but here they are in the quarterfinals of the Olympics and unbeaten after the group stage to boot.
A draw against Senegal in their opening match was enough to fray the nerves of those who had decided to invest in the team, but they were rewarded with back-to-back wins against United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, which books them a place in the last eight against South Korea.
However, it hasn't been all gravy for those involved with the Olympic team. Here are a few winners and losers from the tournament thus far.
Winner: Ryan Giggs
Giggs took a bit of a risk signing up for the Team GB cause. Sure, it was a unique opportunity to finally experience an international tournament, but he did so with every chance that it would end in tears.
Had Britain crashed and burned, he would have been the man wearing the armband, a figurehead of the failure. Such an outcome would have been the sole blemish on an otherwise impeachable career. Well, apart from You Know What, anyway.
However, the 38-year-old has led his newly-formed team with aplomb, his clearly tiring legs toward the end of games notwithstanding, and he is sure to return to the starting lineup for the last eight.
It's not just Giggs who has had a great time of it at London 2012. So have most of his compatriots in the squad, too.
Craig Bellamy scored the team's first goal of the competition and has generally been the team's outstanding player. Neil Taylor has played every minute of every game at left-back, Joe Allen's stock continues to rise just as a move to Liverpool looks on the horizon and Aaron Ramsey has now put his poor start to the tournament behind him.
And the whole nation of Wales was put in a very good light as a Millennium Stadium packed with 70,000 fans gave a decent rendition of God Save The Queen, a nice riposte to all the pundits and bores complaining that the Welsh players in Team GB did not sing the anthem.
Winner: Daniel Sturridge
Things looked rather bleak for the Chelsea striker when he missed a vital part of Team GB's build-up to the Olympics with a bout of meningitis.
The illness has the potential to take people out of action for months, so the fact he recovered in the space of a few days was a blessed relief.
Perhaps his recent illness explained his slow start to the tournament, but a fine lob to put the gloss on the victory over UAE and the winner against Uruguay are signs that he is back in the game.
Loser: Micah Richards
The Manchester City defender has had an odd few months.
There was a huge media clamor for him to be picked for England as he helped City win the Premier League, but he saw the press turn against him after refusing to play a bit-part role at Euro 2012.
Then, when he was selected as one of Stuart Pearce's overage players, Richards caught the flak for being seen as the man who was picked ahead of David Beckham, a terrible sin in the eyes of many Brits.
While he has grown into the tournament in his less familiar role of centre-back, especially since being paired with Steven Caulker, Richards still has plenty of critics to win over.
A gold medal is good for that sort of thing.
Losers: Scotland and Northern Ireland
So much of the build-up to the men's tournament for the British team was centered around the fact that it is not truly a British team at all.
The FA's of Scotland and Northern Ireland still stubbornly refused to let any of their players join up with the squad despite reassurances from FIFA that it would not affect their independent status in international competitions.
While admittedly few players from either nation would be in with a shout of a place—though Chris Brunt and Jordan Rhodes would have both been great additions, to name two—neither nation will be able to bask in any glory that should come the way of England and Wales.
Losers: Spain and Uruguay
Team GB were fourth-favourites with the bookies going into this tournament behind Brazil, Spain and Uruguay. Whilst Neymar and co. remain very much the team to beat, Spain and Uruguay are both on their way home after disappointing campaigns.
Spain suffered a rare failure at international level, and the defining image of their star-studded team's time in London will be those players hounding the referee at the final whistle after defeat to Honduras.
Uruguay, in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, had two of the best attacking players in world football at their disposal, but they too failed to live up to expectation.
Now players from both squads must sit back and watch a team of players thrown together for the first time just a couple of weeks ago revel in achieving something they themselves should have done with ease—simply get out of their group.
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