Pressure has been heaped on Team GB ahead of their first participation in the men’s football competition at the Olympic Games since 1960. With plenty of high-profile Premier League players, including Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs, expectations are high around the nation as Stuart Pearce looks to lead his side to a gold medal.
Team GB will probably play a 4-3-3 utilising Daniel Sturridge’s goal-scoring talent as a central striker and the outstanding pace of Liverpool winger Craig Bellamy on either flank.
The toughest opponent in their group will be a Luis Suarez-led Uruguay, who are expected to top the standings.
Team GB can be confident of success, but will have to overcome a recent loss to Brazil in their warm-up outing, a game in which they were too easily undone. Expect things to change ahead of the opener against Senegal at Old Trafford on July 26th.
Coach – Stuart Pearce: Criticised for failing to select David Beckham in his squad, the England U-21s boss will be keen to let his squad show what they are capable of. Pearce is renowned for his passion and looks hungry to give Great Britain their first football gold medal.
One to watch – Jack Butland: The Birmingham City goalkeeper pulled off some great saves in the warm-up against Brazil and has been linked with a move to the Premier League. At just 19, he has the potential to compete with Joe Hart for the England No. 1 jersey.
One of the favourites to win gold in London, Uruguay head into the tournament with a great deal of confidence. Their national side have improved brilliantly in recent years, led by the dynamic attacking talent of Luis Suarez and Napoli’s Edinson Cavani, and Head Coach Oscar Tabarez has brought through talented young players from the successful U-17 and U-20 squads.
However, their quality in attack becomes undone by their lack of the same in defence and that will be the main worry for Tabarez throughout the competition.
Uruguay are aiming for their third Olympic success, after winning gold in the 1924 and 1928 games in Paris and Amsterdam respectively.
La Celeste’s campaign begins on July 26th, when they face the United Arab Emirates at Old Trafford, which could cause problems for Suarez, who is vilified by Manchester United fans after his racist abuse charge against United left-back Patrice Evra.
Coach – Oscar Tabarez: The 65-year-old has won the South American Coach of the Year on the last two occasions and led Uruguay to Copa America glory in 2011. Tabarez is noted for his tactics, which will need to be spot on to help a poor defence.
One to watch – Gaston Ramirez: Plying his club trade at Italian side Bologna, the 21-year-old has been continuously linked with a switch to Liverpool and is tipped by many as the future of Uruguayan football. Ramirez is a creative force that will open up gaps for Suarez and Cavani.
Senegal Coach Karim Sega Diouf brings his junior Lions of Teranga squad to London without two of their more renowned players in Newcastle strikers Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.
Talks between the Senegal Football Federation and Magpies boss Alan Pardew were unsuccessful in agreeing the release of the two forwards. Diouf will have to make do with three senior players in Dame N’Doye of Copenhagen, West Ham midfielder Mohamed Diame and Papa Gueye from Ukrainian outfit Metalist Kharkiv.
Everton youngster Magaye Gueye, who was born in France, has switched his international allegiance in favour of a switch to the country of his ancestors and will debut at the Games.
Diouf’s side beat Oman 2-0 in Coventry last April in an intercontinental play-off to qualify for their first Olympics tournament and they will open their Games account against Great Britain on July 26th in Manchester.
Coach – Karim Sega Diouf: The Coach of the Senegal under-23s, Diouf was originally brought in on a temporary basis but has impressed the SFF with a talented group of young players. However, the fact he has only named three attackers shows his mindset ahead of the Games.
One to watch – Ibrahima Balde: The 23-year-old striker was on the wish list of Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert this summer before opting for a move to Russian side FC Kuban. Balde scored seven goals in 22 appearances for Osasuna last season and is the main goal threat for his side.
Head Coach Mahdi Ali has added another feather to this cap with his successful campaign leading the United Arab Emirates football team to their first Olympic football tournament.
UAE turned out consistent performances throughout their AFC qualification campaign, winning seven games and drawing three with no losses.
The veteran Coach is hopeful of turning out good performances at the Olympics in only the country’s second global football competition after their qualification for the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
UAE lost all three games at that tournament, but there is growing optimism in the country and support is expected to be high from their fans. However, the celebration of Ramadan coincides with the tournament for the first time in 32 years and support is expected to be minor, although there could still be a number of fans present to cheer on their country in the first game against Uruguay on July 26th in Manchester.
Coach – Mahdi Ali Ali previously led his side to victory in the 2008 AFC U-19 championship, as well as qualification to the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009. The 47-year-old has spent a number of years within UAE football and has a close bond with his squad of players.
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