Team GB learn group opponents for the Olympic football competition

 

The men and women who will represent Team GB in the football competition at the London Olympics have discovered their group opponents.

In the men's draw, Great Britain were drawn against Senegal, Uruguay and UAE.

The women's draw saw the hosts pitted against New Zealand, Cameroon and Brazil.

The men begin their Olympic campaign at Old Trafford against Senegal on Thursday 26 July, followed by fixtures at Wembley Stadium against UAE on Sunday 29 July and then Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium on Wednesday 1 August.

 

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Uruguay were considered the toughest opponents Team GB could have been drawn against, while Senegal qualified last night after coming through a play-off against Oman in Coventry last night.

Both Uruguay and Senegal have players familiar to British audiences whom they could call upon. Newcastle strike duo Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse are from the African nation while Liverpool forward Luis Suarez and former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan hail from Uruguay.

The British women will kick-off a day before the men, against New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on 25 July - two days before the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium.

Their match against Cameroon will also be in Cardiff, on 28 July, with the game against Brazil at Wembley on 31 July.

Stuart Pearce, the England under-21 manager, will lead the men's side while Hope Powell, manager of England, will lead the women.

Organisers will be hoping that today's draw at the national stadium, which will host the finals on 9 and 11 August, will help shift the large proportion of the 1.5 million tickets that remain unsold.

While other Olympic sports have been in huge demand, the football tournament, which Britain have not had a recent tradition of entering, has failed to spark the imagination.

There has been some confusion over who will be eligible, with some Home Nations reluctant to allow their players to be involved, fearing it could impact upon their status as individual nations in the eyes of Fifa.

It is also unclear who will feature for the Team GB Men, with the side made up of under-23 players with three over-age players permitted per squad.

Among the over age players understood to be in contention for selection are former England captain David Beckham and Manchester United's Ryan Giggs. Those taking part at Euro 2012 have already been ruled out.

Speaking to BBC Sport at today's event, Pearce revealed he would be travelling to the US to speak with Beckham.

"(I will pick) solely on merit. It's the only way any manager picks a squad or a team and I will do exactly the same," he said.

"I will know a bit more when I go to the States to see what form (Beckham) is in, he's made the shortlist and he has been a great ambassador for this country and the Olympics, but that's no recommendation that he will get in the squad and that's fair and square across the board for all players."

London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe said at the ceremony: "This is a unique opportunity for the UK to share in the Olympic Games and to share in the spirit of the Games and to say at the end of the process that 'I was there'. I am delighted this football tournament will play such a role in the Games."

Coe also said that team selection was solely down to Pearce, despite obvious commercial advantages in selecting Beckham for the tournament.

"This is absolutely for Stuart Pearce (to decide). He must pick the team on merit and whatever team Stuart picks will attract a lot of attention."

Asked if it was important that the squad should feature players from all four home nations, Coe added: "If possible that's important, but again (it must be) on merit. You don't select your teams on a quota basis, you select on merit."

Britain were among the top seeds for the men's draw, alongside Spain, Brazil ad Mexico.

Spain, seeds in Group D, will play Japan in Glasgow on 26 July, Honduras at St James' Park, Newcastle on 29 July and Morocco in Manchester on 1 August.

Brazil, seeded as the "all-time top Olympic performer" despite never winning the competition, will be in Group C playing Egypt in Cardiff (26 July), Belarus in Manchester (29 July) and New Zealand in Newcastle (1 August).

Mexico, seeded as the highest-ranked country outside of Europe and South America, and will be in Group B playing South Korea in Newcastle (26 July), Gabon in Coventry (29 July) and Switzerland in Cardiff (1 August).

Reigning Champions Argentina failed to qualify.

Team GB were also seeded in the women's draw, alongside world champions Japan and defending champions the United States. Sides from the same confederation were kept apart across both draws.

Men's Olympic Football Draw:

Group A:Great Britain, Senegal, Uruguay, UAE

Group B: Mexico, South Korea, Gabon, Switzerland

Group C: Brazil, Belarus, New Zealand, Egypt

Group D: Spain, Honduras, Japan, Morocco

Women's Olympic Football Draw:

Group E: Great Britain, Cameroon, New Zealand, Brazil

Group F: Japan, Sweden, South Africa, Canada

Group G: USA, France, Colombia, Korea DPR

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