London 2012: The Race to Gold and Glory

So my Olympic Football tickets for Team GB’s opening game against Senegal have arrived and I’ll be honest I am quite excited to see what the Olympic football has to offer and to see whether it will generate the hype, buzz and excitement that we all hope it will.

Anyway earlier this week the Olympic squads were announced so I thought that I’d review the squad selection and later on this week Team GB’s upcoming matches as well as picking out a few key players to look out for over the course of the tournament. So, as you may or may not know London 2012 is the first time that Great Britain has had a representative team in the football competition since 1960 which is quite surprising to be honest as Britain is such a football obsessed country. Having won the competition in it’s second year in 1908 then following that up with success in 1912 the whole nation will be hoping that the youngsters will be able to mark the 100th year anniversary of their last win with success on home soil.

The squad named by Pearce is jam-packed full of potential talent and I’ve picked out a few players who could make the headlines in the coming weeks, starting off with the young goalkeeper Jack Butland. Fresh from Euro 2012 duty where he would have gained vital experience of how major tournaments work and learnt first-hand from one of the best goalkeepers in the world in Joe Hart, the 19 year old Birmingham stopper may be key to GB’s hopes this summer. Having gained vital experience on loan at Cheltenham last season and representing England at all levels from U16-U21 aswell as playing in the final victory over Spain in the European U17’s championship he is no stranger to the pressure that comes with high profile matches.

As one part of a potential centre-back pairing 23 year old James Tomkins may have a lot of weight on his shoulders. The fearless West Ham youngster is no stranger to high pressure games though, playing in this seasons play-off final win over Blackpool and also representing England at all levels excluding the full national team. He is another upcoming youngster who will be hoping to make his mark in the Barclays Premier League next year with his newly promoted team. The determined ball-winner has made 104 appearances for his boyhood club and he was also voted in the PFA Championship team of the year by his fellow pros. Another London based youngster in the squad is Chelsea’s flying full-back/ winger Ryan Bertrand. The expeditious left-sided 22 year old may offer an easy outlet in times of danger as his determination which was displayed in the 2012 Champions League final where he doubled up with Ashley Cole to do a job on Arjen Robben mixed with his pace and flair has the potential to wreak havoc on defences this summer.

The Team GB captain Ryan Giggs who is in my opinion one of the greatest football players to ever grace the field will attempt to hold the mantle for the young hopefulls this summer. At 38 he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the squad which can surely only help his young and vibrant side. His leadership qualities are second to none and his steely eyed persona will work miracles if GB progress to the later stages of the competition. Having made 638 appearances for Manchester United in which he has scored 112 goals Giggs is the clubs most capped player and one of it’s most adored. He is also the most decorated player in England’s football history with 12 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups, 3 League Cups and 2 Champions League winners medals, the Welsh wizard will be aiming to add a gold medal to his record breaking collection with GB this summer. The Elvis-hipped midfielder was also voted in the PFA team of the century in 2007, the Premier League team of the decade in 2003, the FA Cup team of the century and he was also voted United’s greatest ever player by fans on their official website. In my opinion he could be one of if not the most important player in the squad as the younger players will look to him to set the pace and tempo of the game and lead by example which i’m sure he will. A possible midfield partner for Giggs could be Swansea’s Joe Allen who as of January last year had the sixth best pass completion rate in Europe completing 90.3% of all his passes the third best in the Premier League.

A player who I believe could make a huge impact in this summers competition is 22 year old Chelsea forward Daniel Sturridge. A bundle of raw direct talent Sturridge could either set the scene alight or flop massively but I believe that this summer we will see him following on from a great season with his club scoring 13 goals to spur GB to victory and add to a sensational summer of sport for our nation. A possible partner for Sturridge could be the snappy, passionate, feisty 32 year old Craig Bellamy. Being a player who performs with his heart on his sleeve Bellamy’s pure passion and pace could be too much for defences this summer and as one of GB’s over age players he brings a vast amount of experience with him. The eccentric winger has 69 caps for Wales during which he’s scored 19 goals and will be hoping to make the headlines for the right reasons this summer.

Another Welsh player who I believe has a big role to play for GB is 21 year old Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey. The dynamic Welsh captain has made 68 appearances for Arsenal after completing a 5 million pound move from Cardiff and has established himself as a first team regular at The Emirates following Cesc Fabregas’ departure to the Catalonian giants Barcelona. He could possibly find himself partnering Giggs as one of an all Welsh central midfield pairing. Voted Welsh player of the year in 2009 and 2010 he could feel that he has something to prove this summer after some criticism from the Emirates terraces this season and I believe that he can prove them wrong and that he will.

So how far can GB actually go? Well I think we should make light work of UAE and Senegal as they are missing big players such as Newcastle’s Demba Ba, however our main competition in the group will come in the form of Uruguay who have the marksman-like Edison Cavani and the hot-firing Luis Suarez. But we should qualify comfortably and face any two of Mexico, Switzerland, Gabon or the Korea Republic with victory leading to a potential Semi-final clash with the Samba boys from from Brazil at Old Trafford. What’s to say we can’t silence the Samba? With ferocious home support and a few inspired performances why can’t our British spirit come out on top? In my opinion I think it’s about time it did and I can’t wait to be cheering the boys on from the stands.

So anyway let me know what you think about our squad and who you think could be influential or important to us this summer as well as how far you think that we can go. But what I’m sure of is that it should be an exciting time to add to what should be a super summer of sport for our country, and David Beckham or no David Beckham I’ll still be hoping for a Team GB gold this summer and I’m sure that Giggs can lead us to golden glory.

If you want to know more about our opponents in the group and who to look out for over the course of the tournament check out my page in the next few days to see ‘London 2012: What we will face’

Let me know what you think