With the end of the current campaign only a handful of games away, all eyes are turning to the summer’s international tournaments to fill the off-season void. Euro 2012 comes first in June, before the exciting prospect of Team GB competing for gold at the Olympics. With some of the traditionally bigger nations not present at the competition in London, the home representation will be one of the favourites with Betfair football betting to claim gold medals, but who will be playing and can they go all the way?
Firstly, it should be stated that Team GB manager Stuart Pearce has been in contact with potential players about their interest in competing at the games, with a shortlist of a whopping 80 players being compiled. The Olympic football squad must be completely 23 years old or under, with leeway for three overage players. Team GB will be comprised of athletes from England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and according to the English FA, any player who represents England at Euro 2012 will not be considered for London 2012.
With such a wide span of players to pick from, predicting the Team GB squad is difficult, but there are a number of players who have been mentioned and are seemingly eager to compete for Olympic football gold. David Beckham has been a high-profile name mentioned as a possible captain, however Pearce recently admitted that the LA Galaxy midfielder’s inclusion will be decided on form and fitness. Welsh midfielders Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have both been raised as possible candidates for inclusion, and the north London duo would add much-needed quality to the side. From Northern Ireland, Manchester United defender Jonny Evans has been touted to be included, whilst the likes of Barry Bannan, Darren Fletcher (should he be fit) and Grant Hanley are potential Scottish inclusions.
The majority of the squad will be comprised of English players, with youngsters on the verge of the senior squad for Euro 2012 potentially taking part. Jack Wilshere has not been ruled out by Pearce in playing, despite the Arsenal man’s long-term injury concerns. The likes of Daniel Sturridge, Kyle Walker, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tom Cleverley will wait to see if they are needed in Ukraine and Poland, and if not could feature. Finally, Jack Rodwell has been ruled out of Euro 2012 through injury, but could well play in the games as part of his rehabilitation and recovery. With Pearce as manager, former or current England under-21 players could make up a bulk of the 18-man squad.
But can they lift the gold? One of he factors working against the side will be lack of preparation time, and the fact that most of the players will never have played together. However, along with Spain and Brazil, Team GB will be one of the frontrunners for victory, as the rest of the 16 teams seem beatable on paper. Team GB have been drawn in Group A alongside Senegal, Uruguay and the United Arab Emirates, with their first game against the African nation on July 26th.
All-in-all, glory for Team GB at the Olympics would be a real milestone for the game in the United Kingdom, and an excellent collective and personal achievement for the players. With a raft of Premier League talent likely to make up the squad, there is no reason why the hosts will not celebrate glory in the final on August 11th.
Written by Gareth McKnight, senior columnist for the football blog Soccerlens.com.
Image: LOCOG by Justin Setterfield