He has his detractors, he has had few obvious well wishers, there are some even hostile to Stuart Pearce remaining at the helm of Team GB’s challenge for gold at the London Olympics.
The animosity, both public and private, manifested itself after Pearce failed to name David Beckham in the final squad apparently for ‘football reasons’ but it would appear that on the evidence of the opening two games, that Pearce is wholly vindicated. He appears to have galvanised a terrific spirit within the squad that has every right to be overflowing with confidence.
A hard fought draw against Senegal in their opening fixture was deemed a poor result for Team GB by most. However,Senegal’s subsequent 2-0 win over Group A favourites Uruguay, puts Team GB’s performance against them into a much more realistic perspective. Add to the mix Team GB’s second Group A Match victory over United Arab of Emirates by 3-1 then all of a sudden, Team GB are eyeing up a Quarter Final place, with every chance of topping the Group (current standings here).
Pearce’s side must overcome Uruguay on Wednesday knowing that a draw would be enough to see them reach the last eight whereas Uruguay must defeat Team GB to do the same after their defeat to Senegal on Sunday.
The bookmakers are finding it tough to split the two sides with both teams around the 6/4 to win the match, with 9/4 about the draw. William Hill also offers Team GB at 8/15 to qualify for the last 8, with Uruguay 11/8 to do likewise.
Certainly based on performances, Team GB look more than capable of winning the match, the team are playing with a spirit that was unexpected by the critics and with the masterful Giggs in midfield and the never say die attitude of Bellamy on either flank, Pearce could not have two better over age players in the team. In the game against UAE in particular, the two have helped engender a belief in the younger element that has allowed them to make their own telling contributions.
There was no better example of this than when Nathan Cleverly picked up a tight ball in midfield around the halfway line and squeezed a pass into the path of substitute, Daniel Sturridge, whose diagonal surge along the edge of the UAE penalty box ended with the a neat chip over the keepers head and into an empty net.
It ensured Team GB an emphatic 3-1 win, against a side who had troubled them for sustained periods in the second half. It also gave the team a new belief in themselves that only comes about when the spirit is high. A spirit usually associated with winning teams!
In fact it might be a good time for Pearce to become a little circumspect and look at the knock out draw. He will undoubtedly already know that by winning Group A will place his team into the same half of the draw as the tournament’s odd on favourites, Brazil. Should Team GB win Group A then it looks certain that they will play either Mexico or South Korea in the last 8. A win in that match will effectively guarantee them a semi final against Brazil.
Should they finish runners up in Group A, then a Quarter Final game against Mexico or South Korea is once again the almost guaranteed outcome. Should they win then the semi final this time would more likely to be against Belarus. This route should it remain open of course, is clearly the one that in all likelihood would reap a greater reward.
Qualification is the priority however and no doubt Pearce will be happy as long as his team is still in the tournament after the final Group Games are played. As will the Team GB fans. The minimum all concerned should be looking for is an appearance in the Bronze medal game and ultimately, given the surprises that have occurred thus far, is it possible that Pearce could silence his critics and reach the final?