Despite no David Beckham nor Gareth Bale, the first British soccer team to enter the Olympics in decades has plenty of stars and young talent to shine on the world’s stage.
Here’s a guide to the Team GB soccer team:
Jack Butland is the youngest player in the squad at the age of 19. Plying his trade at Championship side Birmingham City, he will have to compete with Middlesbrough’s Jason Steele for the starting job in between the posts.
At the back, Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand made the cut. Left out of the Euro 2012 squad, as all other England players for Team GB were, the youngster combated surging runs from Arjen Robben for 73 minutes in the Champions League Final. He proved an essential part of the “Park the Bus” strategy on the night, because Roberto Di Matteo deployed Bertrand in the left wing slot of the Blues’ 4-2-3-1, instructing the novice to stay level. The Chelsea man held Robben, alongside Ashley Cole, showing that he has what it takes to supply a sturdy performance in a hostile, high-pressure environment.
Danny Rose of Tottenham Hotspur can play as a wing back. Favoring the left side of the pitch, Rose is another attacking wide player produced, most recently, at White Hart Lane. With Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto occupying slots at full back, Rose made few cameo appearances throughout the season due to his stellar opposition. In Spurs’ FA Cup tie against Stevenage, Harry Redknapp gave Danny the start, but the physical play of the League One side, who forced a draw in that first leg, drove the North London side to play long balls down Route 1 at Broadhall Way. With the ball squared, Rose had little influence on the match. Nevertheless, the left back will be an exciting player to watch in this tournament, if he gets the nod.
As both defenders above favor the same flank, manager Stuart Pearce will be forced to make some tricky tactical decisions in defense, but even more so in midfield.
Manchester City’s Micah Richards will hold down the fort on the right, with positions in the middle of defense up for grabs between the versatile Neil Taylor, Steven Caulker and Craig Dawson.
Long time Red Devil Ryan Giggs will participate in the final of a major international competition for the first time in his illustrious career. At 38 years of age, the Welshman will captain the Olympic side.
Giggsy is likely to be guilty of drifting inside to assist Manchester United teammate Tom Cleverley and/or Arsenal foe Aaron Ramsey in midfield.
Cleverley was limited by injury in the last campaign, though he has been tipped to start in England’s 2014 World Cup squad in Brazil. Impressive showings by the United #23 during last year’s North American tour saw him gain the opportunity to replace Paul Scholes. Competing with Anderson for the creative role at Old Trafford, the United legend returned from Manchester, leaving himself and Michael Carrick to hold Fergie’s middle four intact.
Pearce can also dispose passing prodigy Joe Allen. The Welshman completes a strong center, though he may not play to the extent that one would expect, with Giggs and the other highly rated middle men named above set to be fixtures in the GB XI.
Wingers and Forwards
In attack, Scott Sinclair, Craig Bellamy and Daniel Sturridge are fierce striking options.
Sinclair electrified at Wembley in the 2011 Championship Play-off Final, which saw his Swans head to the EPL. The 23 year old struggled in the top flight, but as the season progressed, himself and Nathan Dyer headed a lethal wide attack for City.
Despite his deteriorating legs, Bellamy still has power and pace. He put his talents on display in the League Cup second leg against Manchester City, which saw him take responsibility for Liverpool’s first Wembley trek of the 21st century. It was also his swung-in dead ball that hit Andy Carroll’s head to see the Reds past Everton and through to the FA Cup Final. Brendan Rodgers must hope Bellamy returns to Anfield injury free, as the new manager must look to get the most out of the “Nutter with the Putter’s” final days.
Sturridge had many chances at Chelsea during the season’s inception, as Andre Villas-Boas looked to weed out the old to bring in the new. The striker trounced the club scene a few years ago, scoring moments in to a clash against Seattle Sounders. In 41 appearances, Daniel supplied 13 goals in all competitions last term.
In a group with Senegal and the United Arab Emirates, Team GB should slide into the quarterfinals behind favorites Uruguay. From there, it is a mystery, as the Olympic sides competing are vastly unknown. Honduras, Belarus, and Gabon have entered young teams, who could produce a shock run of form. Meanwhile, traditional powers Spain and Brazil will be head-to-head with Team GB, in their aim to stop the hosts from repeating their 1908 triumph on home turf.