Stuart Pearce: Early exit must not spell end of Team GB experiment

 

If Great Britain's men's footballers are eliminated tonight, Stuart Pearce hopes that it will not be the end of them. Britain play Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff this evening, knowing that defeat will likely prevent them from reaching the quarter-finals. Given Uruguay's qualities it is not an improbable outcome, and Pearce, the coach, fears that it might be the end of the experiment which he has overseen.

"I honestly don't believe it will happen again," said Pearce, who clearly believes that it would be a loss if it did not. "From my experience over this short time and from speaking with the players, I think they would love to have the opportunity to do this every four years. It is a fantastic tournament."

After two unconvincing performances, Pearce must know that his side need an improved display this evening if they are to do the necessary. The campaign started with a 1-1 draw against Senegal at Old Trafford before a 3-1 defeat of the United Arab Emirates at Wembley, which was still 1-1 with only 17 minutes left.

Of course, the team is newly assembled but they have not yet shown as much cohesion as many would have hoped for. Brazil remain the strong favourites for gold.

But Pearce is confident that the players are learning, and he hopes that their opinions would be considered regarding future Olympic football excursions. "The political will, if it comes from anywhere, will come from the players," Pearce said.

"If there was any way of it happening, the best thing to do would be to canvas myself and the 18 players that have taken part in it and ask them if they feel it has been valuable and if it has improved them as footballers, and take your answer from there."

One of Pearce's main positives to come from the experience so far has been the presence of the Welsh veterans Craig Bellamy and Ryan Giggs, who have scored one goal each so far. With all but one other player aged 23 or younger, Pearce spoke of a unique learning opportunity for the less experienced members of his squad.

"The professionalism of both is quite incredible," Pearce enthused. "[Bellamy] is as good a professional on the training pitch as I've worked with or played alongside. Ryan is of a similar ilk and a great role model for the younger players. Just look at these two players on and off the football pitch and it's all there for you."

Kick-off 7.45pm, Cardiff

Referee Y Nishimura (Japan)

TV BBC 3.

Odds Great Britain 6-4 Draw 9-4 Uruguay 9-5.

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