Thursday, 2 August 2012

Britain Go Marching On...

As the Millenium Stadium welcomed the third installment of the Team GB saga there seemed an element of optimism in the air. Whether it was the fact that the press were more excited about Wales booing their anthem rather than Wales providing a football boost is sheer astounding. 4 points already on the board and a draw needed against a side on the brink of going out and talismanic strikers who look bereft of interest. All the ingredients for a comfortable victory right?

The side changed from U.A.E with Sturridge starting up front alongside Sinclair( fresh from his first touch goal) and ever present Bellamy. No Giggs the talking point though at 38 not worrying, midfield trio of Allen, Ramsey and Cleverly plenty of talent. Richards back in the centre with Caulker to combat star duo. Bertrand, Taylor and Butland complete the side.

So could Cavani and Suarez provide stiff opposition with the latter still getting boo's no matter the location. The surface looked suspect and dry compared to prior games but I guess that's to be expected with conditions and the amount of artists who have been there recently. The stats illustrate that if GB win they essentially top the group if Senegal don't which as they drew 1-1 to U.A.E meant they were on 5 points and Uruguay on 3 so avoid defeat and the quarters were in sight.

7:45 ticks ever closer and there's more suspense building up to God Save The Queen than ever before and thankfully respect was evident all round with cheering and even singing all round it can't have gone unnoticed around the world. Rivalry was put to the side for the purist.

First Half

The first half can only be described as one side content with what they had which was the home side and Uruguay looked like they were already planning their trip back home. It was a forgetful first half to say the least. Mexican waves were going round more than Suarez was hitting the deck. Chances were at a premium, Taylor's late tackle on Vuidez of Uruguay and Ramirez yellow card for booting the ball away rather petulantly later were perhaps the only showings of significance. Ramsey was playing well in the middle and Bellamy looks in the mood as usual. The half boils down to Uruguay turning up once in a while and firing long shots well over despite carrying power and attacks from GB rebounding off still a bit off the pace Sturridge.

The half looks to be dithering out to a draw when suddenly Sinclair picks it out on the flank and plays a reverse ball to Allen who turns his man and hits a through ball which evades the keeper but not the on-rushing Sturridge who as all good strikers do poke it in. The only bit of real quality from the whole half which left Suarez and Cavani rather frustrated. Cavani as reported by Mark Lawrenson seemed uninterested at best.

1-0 Half Time

Second Half

The second half started more with a tempo although that could be down to Cavani and co actually bothering to chase and hurry the home side. Taylor plays a great inside ball behind the left back and Bellamy is on it again and it's worth noting that these two have displayed a great partnership throughout the tournament despite it not being Taylor's preffered side. Bellamy puts it long and Sinclair heads it back only for Sturridge to clam the mantle of miss of the tournament although his blushes are spared as he hits the post as the flag is already at his defence, Phew.

Luis Suarez will be perhaps the centre of the turning point of the match as he often is when he got onto the end of a long ball and shrugged Caulker off effortlessly and cut inside Micah Richards but his tame shot is easily saved by Butland and even though it falls back to the Liverpool striker he is off balance and a goal scramble ends with a hurried clearance, an opportunity missed perhaps, definitely. It's Suarez again with the next chance as he drops the shoulder on Richards and instead of cutting back unleashes a drive into the left corner of Butland but he's equal to it and tips it wide. Number 1 England keeper in the future in the making perhaps?

Uruguay were getting on top and it almost felt that GB were struggling to hold a lead like they have done in previous games, Suarez is booked for deliberate handball after a period of pressure although in fairness he did a better job than Butland at bringing it down, Mesmeric. Craig Bellamy then gets subbed around the 78th minute mark and well only he could spark a 22 man brawl on the way out as he takes his time giving the armband to Micah Richards, Cavani is quick to protest( quickest he's moved all game) Bellamy's lips read 'What's he on about, I was only giving him the armband' the rest were expletives.

The game is heading towards it's finish and it's still all hands to the pump although a quick counter attack by Sturridge almost proves fruitful with the Chelsea man cutting and darting inside Coates before putting a low shot to the keeper's right although it's a pretty standard save and Sturridge looks to the heavens perhaps for more match fitness, still not looking sharp. The game slightly dithers out although Gaston Ramirez tries to raise his price tag up by stinging the crossbar with a shot out of nothing. You can feel the celebration building,  A Suarez freekick from 30 yards is aimed towards the left hand side goalpost but Jack Butland who has been spot on all tournament not only stops it but catches it and that's the end of it all. Sometimes faultless and othertimes pointless but another 3 points and unbeaten in the group. Not bad for a side tipped to struggle to turn up let alone compete.

Highlights of the night:

  • Neil Taylor on the right defending well and giving Bellamy plenty of ammunition to run with.
  • Aaron Ramsey coming more to fitness and providing a fruitful display of guile and possession which would have pleased his welsh counterparts. 
  • Jack Butland making key saves again at crucial times.
  • Daniel Sturridge getting 90mins 
  • Qualification from the group and against South Korea who if they beat them would play Brazil. 
Group Stage Summary

The midfield has been working well between them in all three games, The defence has been solid on the flanks although question marks in the centre with Tomkins struggling and Richards stronger on the right flank. Bellamy has been inspirational in his maiden tournament alongside Giggs, alas Welsh greats allowed to dazzle on the world stage. Sturridge starting to find some form although better late than never. Jack Butland proving he could be a world class keeper, expect Birmingham to play him much more this season. Overall very pleasing and it get's better and better each game. Next stop South Korea on saturday evening. Game on!

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