United Arab Emirates-Great Britain Preview
LONDON (SE) - Britain will be looking to keep their Olympic fate in their own hands when they take on the United Arab Emirates at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening.
The hosts of the 2012 Games have entered a British football team for the first time in 50 years, and the early signs were good in the team's opening match against Senegal at Old Trafford on Thursday. Craig Bellamy's opening goal was just reward for a dominant start to the game, but the lack of cohesion in the squad began to tell and Senegal picked up a deserved equalizer late in the game.
"I saw nerves before the game," admitted manager Stuart Pearce. "A lot of our players have played Premier League football, but this cranked it up a bit. Late on in the game we ran out of a bit of gas and it went end to end at that stage.
"We would have liked to have gone on after getting our noses in front, but we are still in the mix, it's going to be a wide open group, and we have to take confidence from this. Physically, Senegal were a bigger side than us and more powerful. But that's not an excuse, we will come away from the match, have a good look at it and see where we go from there."
Denied a penalty in the second half for a terrible tackle on Bellamy, Britain's players were shocked and disappointed by the physical approach of Senegal.
"It's a definite penalty; he could have broken his leg, I'm sure everyone could have seen that on TV," said young Swansea right-back Neil Taylor. "That's why I was angry, you can end someone's career in a flash like that. I've got to be honest I've never seen refereeing like it, in the Premier League we're looking at least four players sent off.
"We were the better team but we have to learn to close the game down," added Taylor. "We're disappointed... at the moment it's hard to take."
Group A underdogs UAE looked on course to shock South American champions Uruguay in their opening game of the tournament, opening the scoring early in the first half. However, strikes either side of half-time condemned the UAE to a 2-1 defeat, leaving them needing a result against Britain. Despite the disappointing result, the team showed enough in their performance against one of the tournament favorites to suggest that they could trouble Team GB.
"Our Group A opponents see us as soft touches, but maybe that's a good thing for us as we might give them a surprise or two," said midfielder Khamis Esmaeel. "Our first and overriding objective is to play some good football and progress beyond the group phase. After that, we'd take it one game at a time.
"In the first phase, we're set to play at Wembley, which is a dream come true already. However, we've not come here just to take in the sights. We're confident we can get some good results and go far in the competition."
The other game in Group A takes place earlier on Sunday with Uruguay facing Senegal. The final round of group games in the men's football tournament will be played on Wednesday, with the UAE playing Senegal and Olympic hosts Britain taking on Uruguay.