Team GB beat Uruguay in Cardiff to go into quarters
SADLY for Jonathan Ford and all at the FAW, Wales hasn’t quite finished with Team GB just yet.
Stuart Pearce’s much-maligned men’s football squad will return to the capital for an Olympic quarter-final on Saturday night after edging past Uruguay last night.
Daniel Sturridge’s close-range effort was enough to win a contest that was low on quality but high on nervous tension.
And the 1-0 victory means Britain win their group and will face South Korea in Cardiff for a place in the last four.
Britain’s most decorated Olympian Bradley Wiggins grabbed most of the headlines yesterday but Britain’s most decorated footballer was missing from the Team GB starting line-up.
Ryan Giggs was relegated to the bench in his home city and the captain’s armband passed to Craig Bellamy – another of Cardiff’s favourite sons.
Uruguay captain Luis Suárez is not quite so popular in Wales, or anywhere else for that matter.
His every move, apart from a slip on the Millennium Stadium turf, was greeted by boos from 70,000 people.
Before kick-off the enthusiastic fans were waving their union flags like it was the Last Night of the Proms conducted by DJ Spoony.
The much talked about anthems passed without incident and as the action got under way the Mexican waves started, possibly helped by the presence of a fair few Mexicans who had earlier seen their side beat Switzerland 1-0.
Pearce’s boys, with Welsh stars Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Neil Taylor also in the starting XI, began brightly. Bellamy and Swansea City’s Scott Sinclair looked menacing either side of central striker Sturridge with Allen, Ramsey and Tom Cleverley probing from midfield.
But Uruguay, who included Napoli star Edinson Cavani and Liverpool youngster Sebastian Coates, were a constant threat on the break.
Team GB goalkeeper Jack Butland was relieved to see a Gaston Ramirez effort clear his bar by no more than a foot and Micah Richards did well to block a Suarez shot. At the other end Ramsey dragged a shot across the face of the goal after good work by the ever-busy Bellamy and Taylor scuffed a long-range crack at goal. Just after the half-hour mark Allen did superbly to block a goal-bound Coates header with his chest.
And the deadlock was finally broken in first half stoppage time as Sturridge slid in to convert Allen’s intelligent centre from a yard out.
After the break the hosts continued to threaten with Ramsey driving just wide of the target but Steven Caulker had a real let-off in defence. The Tottenham youngster, who spent last season on loan at Swansea, was shaken off far too easily by Suarez only for the controversial Liverpool star to be kept off the scoresheet by a combination of Butland and Taylor.
Sturridge was denied a second goal by Uruguayan goalkeeper Martin Campana’s smart stop and Taylor curled one a yard wide of his far post.
It was end to end stuff and soon Suarez burst through the GB defence and saw his flashy drive pushed into the path of Cavani by Butland before the striker crashed the ball into the side netting.
The home fans’ nerves were becoming a little frayed as Suarez continued to play the part of pantomime villain to perfection.
They needed the lift of a Giggs cameo but what they got was Bellamy being replaced by Danny Rose – sadly not the ex-Newport County playmaker but his Spurs namesake.
But they held on throughout an anxious last 10 minutes when to record another win and book a return ticket to Wales.
Team GB: Butland, Taylor, Bertrand, Caulker, Richards, Cleverley, Allen, Ramsey, Bellamy (Rose, 75), Sturridge (Dawson, 90), Sinclair (Cork, 90).
Subs not used: Giggs, Tomkins, Sordell, Steele.
Booked: Taylor, Bellamy, Ramsey Uruguay: Campana, Arias, Coates, Rolin, Cavani, Suarez, Ramirez, Aguirre Garay, Rodriguez, Viudez (Lodeiro, 59), Arevalo.
Subs not used: Polenta, Albin, Calzada, Hernandez, Urretaviscaya, Gelpi.
Booked: Ramirez, Coates, Suarez, Arias Referee: Yuichi Nishimura (Japan) Attendance: 70,348