This summer’s Olympic football tournament ended in a familiarly disappointing way for English/British supporters as Stuart Pearce’s Team GB side went crashing out in the quarter-finals after losing a penalty shoot-out to South Korea.
The squad that Pearce had at his disposal was certainly not the cream of British footballing talent; proving that Olympic football is not taken seriously by top flight professionals, as the priority for most European International players was the Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
The winners of that trophy, Spain, lost all three games in their Olympic group and went home early. The rules of the Olympics mean that the football squad’s must consist of players under the age of 23, with 3 over age exceptions. This did provide an opportunity for 38 year old Welshman Ryan Giggs to play in his first and probably last International tournament.
Giggs’ Welsh compatriot and fellow wing wizard, Gareth Bale, could have made a major difference to Pearce’s team but had to pull out of the squad due to a minor thigh injury. He was suspiciously fit enough to start the season for Tottenham Hotspur a couple of weeks after Team GB’s exit though; again highlighting the derision of the Premier League’s top clubs towards London 2012.
The favourites for the Gold medal were Mano Menezes young Brazil side; undoubtedly the strongest squad in London, the 50 year old coach spoke of keeping the same group of players for the World Cup 2014 in Rio, and he saw this tournament as a vital step in engendering a winning mentality and developing a continuity with their style of play.
The pressure of winning Brazil’s first ever football Gold medal seemed to weigh heavily on the Selecao in the final as they stumbled to a 2-1 defeat to Mexico, a shock result, especially after they’d scored 3 goals in each of their four previous winning matches at the Olympics.
This failure has ultimately cost Menezes his job as he was replaced last week by Brazil’s 2002 World Cup winning manager Phi Scolari. The thoughtful coach has paid for how seriously they take Olympic football in Brazil, which is a real shame because last month’s friendly draw with Argentina saw him hit upon a really exciting new formula. Chelsea’s young superstar Oscar was deployed as a “false 9” (in the same way Lionel Messi plays for club and country) with Neymar on the left, Hulk on the right and Kaka in the No.10 position.
Scolari has already talked about how he doesn’t trust this system, and he will undoubtedly favour a more robust centre-forward, and deprive the neutral fan of seeing a more fluid and exciting Brazil team in 2014.
Written by Andrew Dempsey, Football Tipster
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