No tournament involving Stuart Pearce would be complete without a penalty shoot-out. Last night's, like two of his previous four as player and coach for England, went the wrong way and so British football's first involvement at the Olympics since 1960 was ended, with defeat for the women's team on Friday night followed by South Korea knocking out Pearce's side.
In front of a full house in Cardiff, the Wales captain, Aaron Ramsey, missed a normal-time penalty just three minutes after scoring one to equalise a goal by Sunderland's Ji Dong-won. In the shoot-out his third spot-kick of the night was successful but Daniel Sturridge had his saved and Celtic's excellent Ki Sung-yueng converted the Koreans' fifth out of five. They play Brazil in one semi-final at Old Trafford on Tuesday, while Japan meet Mexico in the other. Their coach, Hong Myung-bo, became a national hero in a shoot-out himself when he scored the winner against Spain at the 2002 World Cup. Last night his young team were as industrious and pacy as the side of 10 years ago. Great Britain improved in the second half without creating real scoring opportunities, although they could claim not to have been helped by a pitch that cut up, hindering smooth passing.
If a draw was just about right at 90 minutes, Britain could have been beaten in extra-time when, with Ryan Giggs on as a largely ineffective substitute and the game becoming stretched, Ji missed two excellent chances with Jack Butland stranded.
Sturridge had looked isolated, as can often happen in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Ramsey unable to support him sufficiently, and neither Craig Bellamy not Scott Sinclair having any joy down the flanks.
Like the women at Coventry, the British side had been slow to settle, although unlike them they were level at the end of an eventful first half in which the count was a goal apiece, two penalties in three minutes to Great Britain, and one suspected broken arm, suffered early on by the Korean right-back Kim Chang-soo.
That injury did not prevent his team looking the better side for a good half-hour. Twice they might have scored, when Butland made a diving save from Ji before Park Chu-young, who made only one substitute's appearance in the Premier League during his first season with Arsenal, headed a free-kick from Park Jong-woo narrowly over.
Then that pair combined for a fine goal. Oh Jae-suk swung an accurate long diagonal pass to the left wing where Park knocked it down for Ji to drive a superb shot past Butland. The home crowd, initially raucous under the closed roof, were quietened down by that and only came alive thanks to the Colombian referee.
In the 34th minute he spotted that Oh had blocked Ryan Bertrand's miscued shot with his hand while lying on the ground. Ramsey took an unconvincing penalty that only just squirmed under the goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong. It was therefore an odd decision to let him take the next one only three minutes later, after Sturridge was caught by Hwang Seok-ho. Ramsey changed direction but the goalkeeper again guessed the right way and was rewarded with a save. In the second half Craig Dawson of West Bromwich came into the defence, which mostly managed to restrict the Koreans to shots from distance and successfully played Ji offside when he ran through to beat Butland. The crowd chanted "we want Giggs" and had their wish granted, but apart from scoring in the shoot-out he was unable to make an impression.
Great Britain (4-2-3-1): Butland; Taylor, Richards (Dawson, 59), Caulker, Bertrand; Cleverley, Allen; Bellamy (Giggs, 84), Ramsey, Sinclair (Rose, 105); Sturridge.
South Korea (4-4-2): Jung (Lee, 61); Kim (Oh, 6) Hwang, Kim, Yun; Nam, Ki, Park Jong-woo, Koo; Ji (Baek, 103), Park Chu-Young.
Referee Wilmar Roldan Colombia).