Olympic Men’s Football Preview – Group A
Not Great Britain, but Team GB as that’s what we’ve been told to call them. It’s our first appearance at an Olympics since 1960 when the team was full of amateurs.
One of the favourites for Group A, Team GB will suffer from not having played as many games together as their opponents which was evident in the friendly against Brazil in which Neymar and company dominated the match and Team GB looked well below par.
The major talking point has been the exclusion of David Beckham. Beckham has been involved in the Olympics since the bidding process and has been an important figurehead for London 2012 but manager Stuart Pearce, picking his squad supposedly on merit rather than sentimentality, left the LA Galaxy midfielder out of the 18 man party.
Ryan Giggs has been named as captain and one of the three over 23’s along with Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards. It’s the first tournament that Giggs and Bellamy have played in but their experience at the top level will be vital to a young squad. Elsewhere there is a strong Welsh contingent. As well as the aforementioned Bellamy and Giggs, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Neil Taylor also make the cut.
Up front Great Britain appear particularly weak. Daniel Sturridge and Bellamy both have quality but have often played as a wide attacker in recent seasons while Marvin Sordell has little big game experience.
The midfield is pretty strong though with Giggs, Tom Cleverly, Jack Cork, Allen, and Ramsey while the much sought after Jack Butland will start in goal.
The Senegalese are playing in their first Olympic Games and will be confident of putting on a good show. They have had mixed results in their friendlies though with a 1-0 win over a decent Swiss side but were comfortably turned over 3-0 by South Korea.
Recognisable players in the squad are few and far between but fans of Premier League football will have seen a fair bit of Mohamed Diame who has just signed for West Ham from Wigan and glimpses of Magaye Gueye who plays for Everton.
Dame N’Doye is one of the main goal threats. He plays for FC Copenhagen and has averaged a goal every two games since joining the Danish club.
A fair chunk of the squad ply their trade in France or Norway but with Olympic football being limited to under 23’s there aren’t many big names, or even players that play regularly at a high level.
United Arab Emirates
Like Senegal, the UAE have qualified for their first Olympics but are likely to be the whipping boys in Group A. However, the Olympic squad have played a number of games in the build-up to the tournament in a bid to build cohesion and a team ethos. And they do have some pedigree, in the last two Gulf Cup of Nations they have either won or been runners up.
The only player in the squad to play outside of the country is Hamdan Al Kamali who spent last season on loan at Lyon in France although he didn’t make a single appearance. Ahmed Khalil is a promising young striker for Al Ahli and with a goal a game record for his country at Under 23 level, but by and large they are taking a squad of unknowns.
Uruguay have won football gold at the Olympics twice before, back before the World Cup in 1924 and 1928. In fact many in Uruguay consider those golds the equivalent to a World Cup as they were international tournaments pre-World Cup. Funnily enough South American rivals Brazil and Argentina don’t subscribe to this theory.
Uruguay will fancy themselves as one of the favourites, and football in the country couldn’t be in a better state after a semi-final place in the 2010 World Cup and a Copa America win in 2011.
Liverpool forward Luis Suarez and Napoli striker Edinson Cavani are two of the over-age players and offer an attacking threat which is enough to trouble any side. Up front they have also taken the promising Palermo forward Abel Hernandez.
Elsewhere there is Liverpool target Gaston Ramirez and young Liverpool centre back Sebastian Coates as well as young Ajax midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro. The squad is full of young and exciting talent and they are likely to challenge favourites Brazil and Spain.