Team Great Britain men’s Olympic soccer journey began July 26th, with its first match against Senegal. As they stood primed and ready for the opening whistle, there seemed to be an omnipresent look of confusion amongst the fans. For a country that holds the English Premier League, fosters some of the greatest players, and is home to some of the most raucous football crowds in the world; it was uncomfortably quite.
They say, “no place is like home,” but for Great Britain where is home? If you’ve ever ventured to an English football stadium and listened to the home crowd, you’d have realized that the fans are chanting louder there than at any other game you’ve ever attended. While expecting this to be the case, I was shocked and, frankly, appalled by the British support. The fans were in fact confused themselves. Since Team Great Britain is the first reformation of Team GB in the last 50 years, fans have no idea what to cheer. The culmination of Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales that compose Team Great Britain, all of which I might add, compete separately on the international level, make for new team chemistry, cohesiveness, and fan support.
Stuart Pearce, the man behind the player selection for Team GB, also did himself and his team no favors in garnering fan support. There seemed to be some obvious choices like Bale and Rooney that would’ve brought the team a significant amount of attention, as well as a powerful punch offensively. Then, there were less obvious choices like attainting the talents of Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain that feature for the English national team. But instead, Stuart Pearce decided to feature those less likely to stir up a storm; those who were getting there first taste of international play. And their star gazing, quiet personalities showed in the first 90 minutes of Team Great Britain’s play. They weren’t very threatening in the final third, shaky defensively and struggling to out duel the speedy and evasive Senegalese side.
Team Great Britain seemed to be at a slight hindrance. Despite the talent on the roster, the depth of which is also not too shabby I, they continued to lack any cohesiveness. In their feature with Brazil a few weeks ago, (the team that walks into this tournament as my strong favorite to win the Gold) Brazil breezed through them in a 2-0 win by its blazing speed of play. Alike Brazil, the Senegalese side moved the ball quickly, with few touches on the ball and with a purpose, effectively finding holes in Great Britain’s midfield and defense. The Senegalese side with its aggressive and unrelenting counter attacking display emerged as the more dominant and dangerous team.
To say the least, neither the team nor the home crowd was inspiring. A tie, although a nice opening game result, was not the start Team GB wanted. In fact, it reminded me of a lethargic and underperforming England side—promise to do well in the tournament, but no results to back up that assertion. Succinctly put, Team GB was as much a visitor as anybody else and doesn’t look like a favorite that it was projected to be.
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