Britain falling in love with Olympic football all over again
Welshman Craig Bellamy wears the captain’s armband for team GB during the match against Uruguay in Cardiff, Wales
CARDIFF, Wales ● Britain’s new-found love affair with Olympic soccer continued to blossom on Wednesday when they beat Uruguay 1-0 to clinch a place in the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time since the 1956 Melbourne Games.
Daniel Sturridge’s goal on the stroke of halftime was enough to give Britain, back in the tournament for the first time since 1960, top spot in Group A and a quarter-final against South Korea back at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
He slid the ball home from close range after good approach work from Joe Allon and, although they came close to scoring several times, Uruguay, who last competed in the Olympics when they won their second gold in 1928, could find no response.
Their nearest effort came when Gaston Ramirez smashed the ball against the bar with a long range shot in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
Suarez not happy with GB fans
Luis Suarez has accused Team GB supporters of showing a “lack of respect” following Uruguay’s 1-0 loss in their London 2012 Olympics clash at Millennium Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Suarez was repeatedly booed throughout the match, while jeers from the crowd interrupted the playing of the Uruguay national anthem when the Liverpool striker was shown on the big screen.
Uruguay were eliminated following the defeat, and Suarez claimed the attention he received from the fans is simply because they fear the impact he can have on a match.
“I think they jeer me and they boo me because they must be scared of facing a player like me,” said Suarez. “They fear me, but that doesn’t affect me.
I’m just hurt because we lost and we are going home.
“I can take the abuse … but I think it was a total lack of respect from the crowd to boo when we were trying to sing our national anthem. I think those things should not happen.”
Suarez has encountered jeers since being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra during a Premier League match at Anfield last October.
He re-opened the row last month by claiming his eight-match ban was handed down because of United’s “political power”.
However, Suarez’s club and country team-mate Sebastian Coates says the crowd reactions toward the striker have now “gone too far”.
“I’m tired of this situation with Luis,” Coates said. “I think it has gone too far and I don’t like to see him treated like this.
“I know the kind of person he is and I think the abuse he gets is very unfair. He knows all his team-mates and a whole country are fully behind him and I think fans over here should leave him alone.”
Britain finished top with seven points ahead of Senegal, on five after their 1-1 draw with United Arab Emirates in Coventry.
Uruguay finished third with three points and were eliminated along with the UAE who picked up just one point.
Britain has not competed in the Olympic soccer tournament for 52 years, mainly for political reasons involving the independent status of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland within world governing body FIFA.
Their FAs have long opposed British involvement but sort of gesturing was not reflected in the passion shown by a crowd of 70,438 who became more vocal as the night wore on and cheered “Team GB” at the end as if they were screaming on Wales themselves.
Fears that the national anthem would be booed by the Welsh crowd came to nothing with a stirring rendition but the crowd were hugely disappointed before kickoff when the team was announced and Britain’s skipper, Cardiff-born Ryan Giggs was not in it.
The former Wales international, who on Sunday at the age of 38 years and 243 days became the oldest man ever to play in the Olympic soccer tournament, was on the bench nursing a hamstring injury, but in his place another Welsh veteran and over-age player Craig Bellamy took the armband.
“We played some outstanding football,” Britain coach Stuart Pearce said after beating Uruguay, a two-time Olympic champion.
The victory came on the day that Britain won its first two Olympic gold medals of the games, triggering a rush of national pride.
“We’re delighted to be playing a small part in this,” Pearce said.
Britain finished ahead of Senegal in Group A after Moussa Kanote’s tournament-high fourth goal rallied the Africans to a 1-1 draw against the United Arab Emirates at the City of Coventry Stadium.
Oribe Peralta scored a second-half winner as Mexico reaffirmed its status as a medal contender with a 1-0 win over Switzerland. Honduras continued its surprise run by drawing 0-0 with Group D winner Japan. Egypt beat Belarus 3-1 to make the last eight.
Brazil had qualified for the quarterfinals even before beating New Zealand 3-0 for a third straight win.
Brazilian coach Mano Menezes rested several of his key players, but that didn’t stop Danilo and Leandro Damiao from scoring before halftime. Alex Sandro added the third at St. James’ Park in Newcastle, where the team will stay for its quarterfinal. Brazil finished with 10 men after Sandro received his second yellow card in the 76th.
“We’re getting stronger as the competition goes on,” Brazil defender Rafael said. “Brazil always has to think of a medal. The next stage is important, if we lose, we’re out. We need concentration and focus.”
Uruguay was returning to the Olympics for the first time since 1928 when it won its second gold, and even with a squad packed with stars like Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani failed to gel. But that comes as little surprise in a tournament in which Spain exited without a victory after drawing 0-0 with Morocco to finish last in Group D.