I’d like to start with a confession. I’ve never been interested in the Olympic football before and I don’t believe it has a place at the games. For me the Olympic Games is all about those sports where winning a gold medal is the pinnacle of the sport, not something that’s barely remembered. The fact that Great Britain have never entered a team before hasn’t helped but that’s all changed now if only for a one off. To have a young Blues player in goal also added to the attraction.
After a trouble free journey we arrived at our seats in the top tier to sit down for Uruguay against Senegal. We had decided before that a Uruguay victory would be better for us but five minutes in I remembered that I really don’t like Uruguay (and Luis Suarez in particular) so joined the African contingent sitting behind us in supporting Senegal. It soon became apparent when Senegal scored that the majority of the stadium had made the same decision particularly with the booing of Suarez every time he touched the ball. It was difficult to pick out individual players from the height of my seat but I always knew when Suarez was on the ball. Uruguay were very disappointing and struggled with the pace and power of the Senegal front line. Their opponents played with flair and gusto with a few crunching tackles. It was no surprise when Ba was sent off for one of the best professional fouls I’ve seen in ages taking out Suarez who was clean through. Think Cameroon against Argentina in the 1990 World Cup. Despite losing a man Senegal hung on to a 2-0 victory in a less eventful second half.
So after spending most of the break buying an enormous Cumberland sausage hot dog (Pricy but nice) it was time for the main event. The crowd swelled before kick-off as some fans had decided to come only for the GB game. It was a very different crowd to that I’m used to with many more families and people of all ages and backgrounds. There wasn’t much singing but then Team GB don’t have any songs so most people contented themselves with clapping and chanting GB a lot. I thought of starting a chorus of “One Lion on a Shirt” but I couldn’t think of a second line. There were a few Mexican waves which after the first I steadfastly refused to join in.
The game started with Team GB on the front foot against a UAE team that passed the ball around nicely and looked better than expected. The home side took the lead after fifteen minutes with a goal made in Wales. Bellamy’s cross was met by Ryan Gigg’s head at the far post. They nearly doubled the advantage just before half time when Tom Cleverly managed to hit both posts with a shot that rolled along the goal line. Half time arrived with the lead intact but as we all know a 1-0 lead is never comfortable. We also learnt that Spain were losing to Honduras and faced going out early.
In the second half things started to get a little less comfortable as UAE got a lot of the ball and looked dangerous against the GB defence. Jack Butland had to make a sharp save with his legs at the near post but was powerless to stop their equaliser when it came. The attacker was allowed to run straight through the centre unopposed and slotted home nicely. Would a good day out be ruined? Stuart Pearce had other ideas. With a somewhat surprising substitution he removed Giggs and brought on Swansea’s Scott Sinclair. Sinclair’s first touch was to tap the ball into the net after Aaron Ramsey’s cross was parried by the goalkeeper. That goal raised the crowd and the team and shortly afterwards Daniel Sturridge made it safe with a great run and chip.
The game fizzled out after the third goal and at the final whistle we joined the rush to the tube station along with the other eighty thousand people. I have to commend the organisation as it didn’t take that long to get on the tube and get home. Olympic football is a different experience and one that I’ll probably not be able to sample again but it was enjoyable night and a good way to fill the gap before the boys in royal blue are back in action again. Hopefully Jack and the boys can get the result they need against Uruguay on Wednesday and go on to get a medal. They will need to improve on this performance but with the crowds with them I think they can give it a good go.
C’mon Team GB!