Thursday, July 26
United Arab Emirates v Uruguay (17.00, Manchester)
Great Britain v Senegal (19.45, Manchester)
Sunday, July 29
Senegal v Uruguay (17.00, London)
Great Britain v United Arab Emirates (19.45, London)
Wednesday, August 1
Senegal v United Arab Emirates (19.45, Coventry)
Great Britain v Uruguay (19.45, Cardiff)
Despite the Football Associations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales objecting to a Great Britain football team for fear of losing their individual status at future FIFA tournaments, GB manager Stuart Pearce was set to select a cosmopolitan squad made up from all four corners of the United Kingdom.
However, just how many players outside of England and Wales will make his starting line-up is open to question.
Pearce sprung a major surprise a month before the games began when he left former England captain David Beckham out of his final 18-man squad.
Beckham had been involved with the London 2012 programme from when they won the initial bid in Singapore in 2005 right up to receiving the Olympic flame in Athens in May this year. It was expected that he would be a nailed-on certainty for Team GB, but Pearce, who flew to Los Angeles to watch him play for his club, clearly wasn’t impressed.
Much credit must go to the GB coach for not bowing to popular opinion. Pearce clearly means business.
With Beckham left out of the squad, attention will now turn to 18 players rather than one individual. The Welsh duo of *Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, who both fit the selection criteria, could just be the jewels in the British crown ahead of any Englishman Pearce selects.
If they can win their group then a potential semi-final against Brazil in Manchester is a mouth-watering possibility. Team GB could get a medal, but it may not be gold.
As the man in charge of England under-21s, it looked at one point as though Stuart Pearce would have three jobs this summer, having already been appointed Team GB boss and caretaker England manager following the sacking of Fabio Capello. He becomes the first manager of a British Olympic football team since Norman Creek in 1960.
On the eve of his 21st season at Manchester United, Welshman Ryan Giggs will be keen to be part of the set-up and is ready to perform on the global stage for the first time in his illustrious career.
Having been on the fringes of Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad, the 22-year-old Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge should be a regular starter in Pearce’s team.
The blistering pace of Gareth Bale should get fans off their seats at Old Trafford, Wembley and in his home country’s Millennium Stadium for Team GB’s group matches. Should be a shoo-in for selection.
Overlooked by Hodgson for Euro 2012 and not rated by previous full-time England boss Fabio Capello, Micah Richards
will have a point to prove.
*Since this piece was written, Bale withdrew from the squad through injury.
1 Jack BUTLAND
18 Jason STEELE
2 Neil TAYLOR
3 Ryan BERTRAND
4 Danny ROSE
5 Steven CAULKER
6 Craig DAWSON
12 James TOMKINS
14 Micah RICHARDS
7 Tom CLEVERLEY
8 Joe ALLEN
11 Ryan GIGGS
13 Jack CORK
15 Aaron RAMSEY
16 Scott SINCLAIR
9 Daniel STURRIDGE
10 Craig BELLAMY
17 Marvin SORDELL
By Duncan Bond
Things have gone remarkably well on two fronts since Oscar Tabarez took charge of Uruguay six years ago. The senior side came fourth in the World Cup and won the Copa America, while the junior teams have been strong at under-17 and under-20 level.
Now the Olympic tournament – Uruguay’s first participation since the gold medal campaigns of 1924 and 1928 – is the big chance to bring these two strands together.
The senior side is ageing and, in the early rounds of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, Uruguay have only used two players under the age of 23, and even then only briefly. Some players will have to be replaced – or at least some new options will have to appear – over the next two years, so the London Games give the next generation a chance to step up.
But who will be given the opportunity? There are so many alternatives that earlier this year Tabarez put 72 players, including his entire senior squad, on call as possible over-age players.
In the meantime he has been training in Montevideo with a group of home-based youngsters, many of which are drawn from the impressive under-20 squads of 2011 and 2009. And some of the outstanding members of those sides have already moved abroad and are clamouring for inclusion. It will not be easy to whittle down all the options to a squad of 18.
Oscar Tabarez is now 65 and enjoying a hugely successful second spell in charge of the national team. With his clear thinking, tactical knowledge and man management skills, “El Maestro”, who is a qualified teacher, is the undoubted architect of Uruguay’s resurgence.
Liverpool centre-back Sebastian Coates did well during last year’s Copa America and is seen as the long-term replacement for senior captain Diego Lugano.
Diego Rodriguez, a central midfielder with Defensor, is viewed as the successor to Diego Perez. He is similarly tigerish, but offers more on the ball.
The tournament is important for left-footed attacking midfielder Gaston Ramirez, who has yet to reproduce his Bologna form for the senior side, while jet-heeled striker Abel Hernandez, who has been in and around the senior squad since the World Cup, hopes to put an injury-hit season with Palermo behind him.
One of the outstanding players last year in international football, striker Luis Suarez is a clear candidate for an over-age slot.
1 Martin CAMPANA
18 Leandro GELPI
2 Ramon ARIAS
3 Diego POLENTA
4 Sebastian COATES
5 Emiliano ALBIN
6 German ROLIN
13 Matias AGUIRREGARAY
8 Maximiliano CALZADA
10 Gaston RAMIREZ
12 Jonathan URRETAVISCAYA
14 Nicolas LODEIRO
15 Diego RODRIGUEZ
17 Egidio AREVALO
7 Edinson CAVANI
9 Luis SUAREZ
11 Abel HERNANDEZ
16 Tabare VIUDEZ
By Tim Vickery
By finishing fourth in the inaugural African Under-23 Championship late last year, Senegal went into a one-off play-off match with Oman, which they won fairly comfortably in Coventry.
It will be the first time Senegal have played at the Olympics and their squad is brimming with exciting young talent – many of which have been elevated into the senior side and who played in the start of the 2014 World Cup qualification campaign in June.
Among those being sought to provide extra experience as over-age players are Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse of Newcastle United, although this has only been speculation so far.
Joseph Koto is a former national midfielder who has also been acting as caretaker coach for the senior side since the debacle at the African Nations Cup finals earlier in the year.
Anderlecht striker Cheikhou Kouyate played a part in his club winning last season’s Belgian championship, while Sadio Mane scored in the recent World Cup qualifiers on his first appearance for the senior side.
Midfielder Pape Maly Diamanka made his Spanish league debut this year with Rayo Vallecano, and Osasuna striker Ibrahima Balde, who was previously at Atletico Madrid, played as a teenager in Argentina.
1 Ousmane MANE
18 Papa CAMARA
2 Saliou CISS
4 Abdoulaye BA
5 Papa GUEYE
6 Zargo TOURE
9 Kara MBODJI
16 Pape SOUARE
3 Ibrahima SECK
8 Cheikhou KOUYATE
10 Sadio MANE
13 Mohamed DIAME
14 Idrissa GUEYE
17 Stephane BADJI
7 Moussa KONATE
11 Kalidou YERO
12 Ibrahima BALDE
15 Magaye GUEYE
By Mark Gleeson
Mahdi Ali’s team made a slow start to qualifying before notching up four consecutive victories to edge out the Uzbeks, who had looked to be a shoo-in for one of the three Asian berths after an impressive start to the final phase of qualifying.
However, the experience that Ali’s young team had gained over the previous two years gave the Emirates the strength of character needed to persevere as they notched up wins over Uzbekistan, Iraq and Australia.
Many of the squad – seen as a golden generation within the Emirates after winning the Asian Under-19 crown in 2008 and reaching the quarter-finals of the Under-20 World Cup a year later – featured in the team that reached the Final of the Asian Games in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in November 2010, when they lost to Japan.
The core of that team has carried over into the side that qualified for the Olympics, with a number having also graduated to the senior side and featured for their country at the finals of the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar at the start of 2011.
Ali’s team conceded just twice in qualifying and his squad will be bolstered by the addition of three over-age players, including former Asian young player of the year Ismail Matar.
The 45-year-old coach and former UAE international – he missed out on an appearance at the 1990 World Cup because of injury – Mahdi Ali gave up a job with the Dubai Municipality to devote himself full time to football and he has worked with many within the squad during their passage through the various age categories.
UAE’s only overseas-based professional, central defender Hamdan Al Kamali joined Lyon in January, initially on a six-month loan deal. He anchors the defence of the Olympic side.
Arguably the biggest star in Emirates football, Ismail Matar won the Golden Ball at the Under-20 World Cup in 2003, when the UAE hosted the competition. A power striker, he is one of three over-age players.
Classy central midfielder Amer Abdulrahman dictates the tempo of the team’s play from in front of the defence with his accomplished passing and cool temperament, and is seen as a star of the future in the Middle East.
Named the Asian young player of the year in 2008, and runner-up for the same award 12 months later, Ahmed Khalil is from a family of footballers and forms an effective partnership in attack with Matar for the national team.
1 ALI KHASEIF
18 KHALID EISA
2 SAAD SUROUR
3 ABDULAZIZ HUSSAIN
4 MOHAMED AHMAD
6 Ali ALAMERI
8 Hamdan AL KAMALI
11 AHMED KHALIL
14 ABDELAZIZ SANQOUR
5 AMER ABDULRAHMAN
7 Ismail AL HAMMADI
12 HABIB FARDAN
13 KHAMIS ESMAEEL
15 OMAR ABDULRAHMAN
16 RASHED EISA
17 MOHAMED FAWZI
9 AHMED ALI
10 ISMAEIL MATAR
By Michael Church