Sturridge fires Team GB into last eight
Published 02/08/2012 | 09:30
Great Britain 1 Uruguay 0: Football may not be a universally welcome presence at these Olympic Games but Great Britain's men joined their female counterparts in the quarter-finals last night with a spirited display in Cardiff that will ensure the game gets closer to centre stage.
Just as Great Britain's women negotiated their way past fancied Latin American opposition with a hard-fought 1-0 win, Daniel Sturridge's strike was enough to dispatch Uruguay and set up a Saturday night showdown against South Korea back here at the Millennium Stadium.
The 70,438 crowd is a testament to the host side's burgeoning popularity and their interest was returned with a display of greater cohesion and defensive organisation, with goalkeeper Jack Butland performing second-half heroics.
"Today has been a fantastic day with [Bradley] Wiggins winning gold and that spreads right across Great Britain," said the Great Britain coach, Stuart Pearce. "It brings a feelgood factor to the Olympics and we are glad to have played our part this evening and got the result to get out of the group.
"We didn't watch it [the rowing or the cycling] together as we had to prepare for this game but I fully expect that most of the players, and a lot of the staff, are watching other events.
"We all feel part of it after our experience in the Olympic village. We all feel part of what's going on."
He added: "We are improving game by game, our fitness levels are improving, our understanding is improving and some of the passing, especially in the first half, was outstanding."
Although Ryan Giggs' advancing years make it necessary to manage his involvement carefully, it still registered as something of a surprise that the 38-year-old was denied the chance to lead out Great Britain in his hometown.
That said, the Welsh contingent inside the Millennium Stadium had the inviting alternative of fellow veteran countryman Craig Bellamy, whose pre-match pleas were answered as a rendition of "God Save the Queen" thankfully passed without incident.
Great Britain started brightly, with Bellamy receiving early possession in promising areas. The Liverpool forward narrowly failed to connect as Micah Richards turned Tom Cleverley's 15th-minute corner goalwards, but it was Uruguay who wasted the best opportunity in the opening exchanges.
Neil Taylor was booked for a crude tackle on Tabare Viudez and the resultant free-kick found Bellamy's Anfield team-mate Sebastian Coates 10 yards out but he could only head over the bar.
Coates then had a penalty appeal for handball against Joe Allen rightly waved away by the referee, Yuichi Nishimura of Japan, but the game appeared to be meandering towards half-time before Great Britain struck.
Allen bobbed and weaved in the box before threading a ball across the six-yard box for Sturridge to turn the ball home in stoppage time.
Such predatory product will enhance the 22-year-old's claims that he should be considered a centre-forward yet he exhibited the argument against just after the break when sidefooting against a post from three yards out. A linesman's flag saved him.
Butland then saved Great Britain not once, but twice. Luis Suarez suddenly came alive and outmuscled Steven Caulker to bear down on goal but the keeper stood tall and denied Uruguay parity. The Liverpool striker came back for more with a brilliantly struck left-footed effort Butland did well to divert.
Suarez was booked, much to the crowd's delight. Gaston Ramirez hit the bar, yet Great Britain stood firm with a work ethic that draws parallels with more conventional Olympic disciplines. A medal match draws closer.
Man of the match Sturridge.
Match rating 7/10.
Referee Y Nishimura (Japan).