Gareth Southgate urges Team GB to treat Olympic football tournament seriously
Friday 13 July 2012
Gareth Southgate is urging Team GB's players to treat the Olympic football tournament as a major step in their careers.
Stuart Pearce's men's team will launch their Group A campaign against Senegal at Old Trafford on July 26 with high hopes of making an impact.
However Southgate, the Football Association's head of elite development, knows from experience how seriously other nations treat the competition.
He said: "Our guys face a disadvantage compared to a lot of the others sides as they will have been together a lot longer.
"Stuart has just got his players together, while teams like Brazil have played a series of friendly games already.
"There's a lot of ability in the squad. It's a shame to lose the likes of Gareth Bale, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling to injury, as I think they would all have been key players, but it's still a good squad.
"The unknown is some of the other countries, though. They all take their junior international teams very seriously.
"I remember the Australian boys I played with at Middlesbrough - people like Mark Viduka and Luke Wilkshire - all played in Olympic tournaments and saw it as a big part of their progression.
"Lionel Messi made a big thing of making sure he was available for the last Olympics, and the top Brazilians are taking great pride in being involved this time.
"Because we have never been in it over here, I don't think we have realised the importance of the Olympic tournament."
Great Britain last fielded a team in the men's tournament at the Olympics in 1960, but will inevitably be installed among the favourites.
However, so too will Brazil, who are yet to win the tournament but will head into their final warm-up fixture against Pearce's men at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium next Friday evening with an impressively strong squad which includes Santos' rising star Neymar as well as Porto frontman Hulk and AC Milan's Alexandre Pato.
Asked about Neymar in particular, Southgate said: "He's special. I saw him play against Scotland at the Emirates when he scored the two goals and I've seen some brilliant goals he's scored back in Brazil.
"In years to come, we could be saying that we remember when he came across to Britain and we saw him at the Olympics - or at the Riverside. He could be up there with the Ronaldos and Ronaldinhos.
"There's speculation about him joining Barcelona, but Brazilian football is very strong on and off the pitch at present so a lot of their top players are staying there or going back there after playing abroad.
"Brazil are clearly taking this very seriously as the Olympics is not only the one major tournament they have never won, but they are preparing to host the next World Cup too.
"I think it grates with Brazil that Argentina have won it but they haven't.
"You only have to see the strength of their squad to know how much this means to them, with players like Neymar, Sandro, Lucas and Oscar all involved.
"Then, when you see the over-age players they have included (Hulk, Marcelo and Thiago Silva), it just makes them even stronger."
The GB women's team will also be in action at the Riverside as they face Sweden before the men take the field.
:: For the price of one ticket, fans can see the only warm-up matches that Team GB men's and women's teams will play before the Olympics on July 20. The event starts at 4pm when Hope Powell's women take on Sweden, and continues at 7.45pm when the men play Brazil. The remaining tickets are priced from £30 adults, £20 over-65s and £15 under-16s.
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food