Great Britain Olympic Soccer Team 2012: Rating Team GB After Quarterfinal
With precisely a week to go until the event’s gold medal will be decided, Saturday evening saw hosts Great Britain go up against the underdog figure of South Korea in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Japan, Mexico and Brazil all earned victories earlier in the day to secure their spot’s in the Olympic men’s football semifinals.
As a result, the winner of this match knew that even if they were to win this weekend, it would mean an encounter against the tournament favourites, Brazil.
Team GB were led by captain and standout London 2012 performer Craig Bellamy in front of his home support, but the Welshman ultimately had little influence in his side’s fixture, as the Brits were sent packing from the competition following a penalty shootout.
While things may have been settled on spot-kicks, the 120 minutes played previous to that were a back-and-forth affair of tight proportions, and not every Briton will be held in the same regard as other teammates.
Here’s how the British fared against South Korea on an individual scale.
Goalkeeper – Jack Butland
While he may be just 19 years old, Jack Butland has impressed all with some confident performances for the British team in these Summer Games.
While his shot-stopping is certainly the quality of a future England superstar, Butland showed a lack of aerial ability against South Korea and could have come out to claim more balls if he perhaps had the confidence to do so.
Things appeared to be going well for Butland, and the No.1 got in an early diving save from a Ji Dong-Won effort that called for good reactions.
That being said, the teenager was helpless to make the saves when it mattered most, and South Korea netted all five of their penalties in the shootout, meaning Butland won’t be anyone’s hero on this day.
Right-Back – Neil Taylor
Neil Taylor wasn’t very effective in attack, but he was ever-present in restricting the South Koreans’ attack.
Swansea City’s Welshman held a good account of himself, but Taylor was one of several Team GB players to record a fairly unremarkable quarterfinal display.
The 23-year-old did what was required of him most and stopped the South Korean attack from gaining much momentum down his right-hand flank.
However, it’s arguable that a modern day full-back needs to make attack a necessary part of his resumé, and while Taylor was a consistent source of ammunition for Swansea last season, he wasn’t quite as helpful in Saturday’s match.
A natural right-footer, Pearce’s choice to play Taylor out of his favoured left-back position is certainly one up for debate, although the defender has played out of the position before in this competition.
Centre-Back – Micah Richards
As one of Great Britain’s over-23 players, Micah Richards was always going to find the physical side of things a little easier to cope with than his more youthful opponents.
The Manchester City man thrived against the likes of Sunderland’s Ji Dong-Won, and while the South Korean will go home the happier man today, Team GB’s eventual demise was in no part down to a fault of Richards.
Unfortunately, Richards clashed with South Korea’s keeper early in the second half and was forced off through injury not long after, an event that may have had a massive effect on the balance of the game.
Centre-Back – Steven Caulker
Arguably Team GB’s best player on the night, you would never guess that this was the first international tournament that Steven Caulker had ever featured in.
The Tottenham man, who recently penned a new contract at White Hart Lane, is being tipped to get more first-team opportunities with Spurs this season, and it’s easy to see why they believe in him.
Calm and collected, it’s hard to believe that Caulker is still just 20 years of age, given his ability to command the back four with such a confident voice.
The defender formed a solid partnership with Micah Richards and also Craig Dawson in the second half, relegating South Korea to long-range efforts for the vast majority of the match.
Left-Back – Ryan Bertrand
Another young starlet who’s likely to have a bigger say at his parent club this season, Ryan Bertrand was preferred to Neil Taylor at left-back and did a good job in the position.
Capable of playing as a midfielder, Bertrand made plenty of surges up the left-hand side, linking up well with the likes of Scott Sinclair and Tom Cleverley at times.
This does, of course, mean that Team GB suffered slightly in defence on Bertrand’s side at times, and Sinclair was left to pick up the pieces on occasion whenever the 22-year-old overstepped his forays forward.
Overall, Bertrand was one of the brighter sparks for the Britons and created the chance which forced South Korea into conceding their first penalty.
A promising display from the Chelsea man.
Centre Midfielder – Aaron Ramsey
With Stuart Pearce opting for a midfield-heavy formation, it was always going to be vital that the centre midfielders got their positioning correct on the night.
In a central three, Ramsey appeared to occupy the defensive duties, and while that doesn’t mean the Welshman wasn’t allowed to venture forward at all, the bulk of Ramsey’s playmaking took place in his own half.
With Ryan Giggs absent, it was up to Ramsey to set the tone in attack, controlling the tempo as he saw fit and initiating counters at the appropriate speed.
Playing in front of his home crowd, Ramsey did well to scuff home a first penalty, but he went on to miss a second that could have won the fixture for Team GB.
Following that saved effort, it takes a lot of courage to step up for a third try, but the 21-year-old slotted home his attempt in the shootout, redeeming himself in a way.
Overall, an average performance.
Centre Midfielder – Joe Allen
After being so consistent in the group phase, it was only a matter of time until Joe Allen turned in a performance that could slightly disappoint the home support.
Allen operated in the very centre of the park and was primarily responsible for maintaining possession for the hosts, just as he did to such a high standard for Swansea last season.
While his pass success-rate is usually an incredible one, Allen failed to find any killer ball against South Korea, and he was often relegated to lofted passes, a tactic which proved fruitless with only Daniel Sturridge to aim for.
The 22-year-old was more impressive breaking up the opposition’s attack than he was at creating scoring chances, and he didn’t meet the high expectations he’s set up for himself.
Centre Midfielder – Tom Cleverley
Cleverley certainly took his time in hitting his stride, but with what appeared to be a case of superior fitness, the Red Devil showed his best football in the second half and extra time.
Probably the most adventurous of Team GB’s central three, the 22-year-old did well to make himself available in attack, although he was seldom found in the space he created for himself.
Another of those Brits to go along with making much of a fuss for the opponent, Cleverley didn’t contribute as much as he would have liked, although there was certainly sparks to take positives from.
One major plus to take from this quarterfinal was that Cleverley appears to have been taking penalty lessons from Ryan Giggs, slotting his effort home in expert fashion.
Right Wing – Craig Bellamy
With such an incredible first three games of the tournament under his belt, Bellamy’s performance against South Korea was one of a veteran that was perhaps a little strained under the demands of an international tournament.
The Liverpool forward failed to live up to the high standards of his group-stage performances, but he was as busy as ever down the British flanks.
Daniel Sturridge needed as much supply as possible against South Korea, and Bellamy wasn’t able to deliver the proverbial goods on this occasion.
Striker – Daniel Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge—the man who will forever be remembered as the man most responsible for Great Britain’s men’s football London 2012 exit.
In 120 minutes, the Chelsea attacker failed to hold up the ball for his teammates as well as was required of him, and in turn, Team GB paid the ultimate price.
Creating very little scoring chances, one could argue that the 21-year-old’s lack of attacking threat was as much of a fault of those around him as it was the player himself.
However, Sturridge was unnecessarily wasteful at times, summing up his performance with a 120th minute free-kick in a fantastic position, pitching the effort harmlessly wide of the South Korean goal.
With the score at four apiece, Sturridge took Team GB’s last penalty in the shootout and their last kick of London 2012, rounding off a disappointing quarterfinal.
Left Wing – Scott Sinclair
In his first start for Team GB, Scott Sinclair’s introduction at the expense of Ryan Giggs was debated from the beginning of Saturday’s fixture, especially considering that the match took place in the capital of Giggs’ native.
The Swansea man put the through-ball in for Sturridge that eventually handed Great Britain a second penalty, and although Aaron Ramsey failed to convert, Sinclair’s work didn’t go unappreciated.
The former Chelsea academy player was also of much help to Ryan Bertrand in defence, and the attacking nature of the full-back made it necessary for Sinclair to fill in as a defender on more than one occasion, of which he performed admirably.
Later on, Sinclair switched into a central role while Sturridge went out wide, performing well in his attacking responsibilities.
Coming on for Micah Richards early in the second half, Craig Dawson eventually went on to play a very decent 70 minutes or so, a tally he may not have expected to clock up at the beginning of the night.
The West Bromwich youngster was very assured at centre-back, despite his lack of international playing time, and he formed a solid partnership with Steven Caulker.
At 6’2”, the 22-year-old coped well with any aerial threats South Korea may have inspired, and actually managed to get a very respectable effort in on the opposition goal, although it was deflected away.
To round things off, Dawson slotted a penalty home in the shootout, scrapping the stereotype that defenders can’t take a good spot-kick.
While many would expect great things from an icon like Ryan Giggs, the Welsh legend was ultimately disappointing in his display against South Korea.
The Manchester United veteran replaced compatriot Craig Bellamy in the 85th minute of normal time, and he failed to make enough of an impact to prevent the game going to penalties.
Although he put away his spot-kick in the coolest of manners, Giggs’ 30-minute cameo wasn’t of the high standard that we’ve come to expect of the 38-year-old.
The Red Devil misplaced an uncharacteristic amount of passes and showed that he may well have been rusty from sitting on the bench.
The last of Stuart Pearce’s substitutes to be used, Danny Rose’s 15-minute appearance wasn’t really enough time to contribute much to Team GB’s hopes of progress.
The Tottenham youngster has performed well in previous matches at the Summer Games and could certainly have done better with more playing time as the Britons lacked an attacking impetus.
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