KEIR RADNEDGE in LONDON: Wednesday’s Group A showdown in Cardiff will be win or bust for Great Britain or Uruguay, according to Olympic football hosts’ coach Stuart Pearce.
The concluding Group A match will also be the biggest national team occasion in the multi-garlanded career of Ryan Giggs who played an exemplary captain’s role in Sunday’s 3-1 win over the United Arab Emirates in front of 82,000 at Wembley – one of the largest attendances ever recorded for an Olympics football match.
Senegal’s surprise 2-0 win over the South Americans took them top of the table and Pearce acknowledged that the Cardiff winners will join the excellent Africans in the quarter-finals.
In fact, a draw would be enough for Great Britain who are thus already, in effect, into knockout football. Every game now is sudden death.
Pearce said: “We’re in a situation where there’s an instant knockout and we have to approach the game as that. We have to try to beat Uruguay. It’ll be s difficult game and the group is wide open.
“Uruguay are still favourites in the group – they were favourites from the outset – and the hash-up is all to play for. Senegal have been absolutely outstanding and might think they have the easier game [against UAE] so they’ll fancy their chances and it’s out of the two of us. We won’t look any further than the next game.
“If we felt the pressure in this game was pretty high – we went into it knowing we must win it – then the pressure now goes up one more notch.”
The improved cohesion out on the pitch, compared with the warmup illustrated how his scratch team are improving game by game. But the result hung in the balance temporarily after UAE levelled soon after half-time.
Pearce said: “We certainly made hard work for ourselves. The timing of the first goal was important for the team. We were hoping to make the game more comfortable but, credit to UAE, they stayed in the game and for 10 to 15 minutes after they scored we were on the back foot a touch.
“The substitutes thoroughly deserved the goals we got and there were good performances from Bellamy, Allen. We were pleased to get the result. It’s not asy to get a victory at international level – as I know well – so we go into sudden death between us and Uruguay.”
The experience of Giggs, in his Welsh footballing home of the Millennium Stadium, could be crucial again.
Pearce was unstinting in praise, saying: “Giggs has the respect of the group, the way he conducts himself on and off the pitch is outstanding. Everything he does we knew about him before he was selected and I’m delighted he got a goal to cap his performance.
“If you’re a young player there’s few better examples. The two older players have been a great influence around the group – Giggs especially and Craig Bellamy – on and off the pitch and around the group. If you’re not sure how to conduct yourself have a look at these two.”
Pearce also praised the fans as “outstanding,” adding: “This was among the biggest attendances for an Olympic football match so that sends a message out straightaway. Now we just have to make sure there’s more.”
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