KEIR RADNEDGE in CARDIFF: Daniel Sturridge, with perfect timing, shot Great Britain to a win 1-0 win over Uruguay in their all-or-nothing concluding tie in Olympic Group A at the Millennium Stadium.
They thus finished top of the table and will face South Korea back in Cardiff on Saturday night. Uruguay were eliminated. Group A runners-up Senegal, held 1-1 simultaneously by the United Arab Emirates, face Mexico at Wembley.
Sturridge jabbed the ball across the line from close range after a angled cross-shot from Joe Allen had eluded goalkeeper Martin Campana. It was Sturridge’s second goal of the Games after his strike as a substitute in the previous 3-1 win over the United Arab Emirates.
Team GB were competing in the Olympics for the first time since 1971, in the finals for the first time since 1960 and seeking to reach the last eight for the first time since 1956 in Melbourne. The last time they reached the semi-finals was back in the so-called ‘Austerity Games’ in 1948.
Coach Stuart Pearce had suffered a selection setback before the game when captain Ryan Giggs was ruled out of the all-or-nothing tie after failing to recover from a hamstring injury following the stresses and strains of the two physically testing games against Senegal and the UAE.
Liverpool’s Craig Bellamy, another Welshman and over-age player, took over the captain’s armband in his home nation’s national stadium and sought to force an early breakthrough for a match in which defeat would spell elimination for Team GB.
Bellamy found plenty of space, cutting in from the right as Team GB pursued early breakthrough. The goal failed to come and Uruguay, technically creative, forged their way back into the game.
Liverpool striker Luis Suarez might even have shot them ahead on the halfhour. However he delayed his shot just a fraction, Micah Richards took the pace off the ball and keeper Jack Butland saved comfortably.
The stoppage-time additional had just been announced to the crowd when Scott Sinclair sliced in from the left and found Allen who twisted on the ball and applied too much pace for Campana to cope with. Chelsea’s alert Sturridge did the rest.
Uruguay should have equalised eight minutes into the second half. Suarez skipped around the outside of the Team GB on the Uruguayan right, took the ball to the byline then cut inside only to see two rapid-fire shots parried by keeper Butland.
Suarez remained a persistent danger. In the 63rd minute to found space on the left and hit an angled shot on the run which Butland palmed away to his left and was fortunate to see Edison Cavani ram the ball into the side-net.
As the clock ticked down so Uruguay threw more men forward, tempers began to fray and the Team GB defence struggled to hold their lines. Martin Ramirez thundered a drive against the bar in the fourth minute of stoppage time . . . but it was not enough to prevent Britain marching on.
Great Britain: Butland – Taylor, Richards, Caulker, Bertrand – Cleverley, Allen – Bellamy (Rose 77), Ramsey, Sinclair (Cork 90) – Sturridge (Dawson 90).
Uruguay: Campana – Aguirregaray, Rolin, Coates, Arias – Rodriguez, Arevalo – Cavani, Ramirez, Viudez (Lodeiro 58) – Suarez.
Referee: Nishimura (Japan).
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