With one of the pre-tournament favourites Spain eliminated without winning a game and Switzerland and Belarus also failing to get out of their groups, Great Britain are Europe's only representative in the knockout stage of the men's Olympic football. Stuart Pearce's men qualified unbeaten as Group A winners to set up a quarter-final with South Korea on Saturday evening at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
Great Britain opened with a draw against Senegal on 26 July as Craig Bellamy's 20th-minute strike was cancelled out by Moussa Konaté eight minutes from time. Undeterred, the hosts eased to a 3-1 victory over the United Arab Emirates courtesy of goals from overage midfielder Ryan Giggs, Scott Sinclair and Daniel Sturridge.
Heading into their final match against a Uruguay team featuring Liverpool FC's Luis Suárez and SSC Napoli's Edinson Cavani, GB knew that they had to avoid defeat to guarantee a place in the quarter-finals. Sturridge's second goal of the tournament in first-half stoppage time sealed their position at the top of the section and kept Pearce's charges on course for a medal.
"It excites me to stay in the competition for at least one more match because we have improved game by game – the fitness levels are improving as is the understanding," said Pearce. "I am delighted to be out of the group – looking back you can see how tough it was – but I think over three matches we deserved to come top, the team got stronger and stronger. Now it is about recovery and preparing for Saturday. My feet are on the floor and [I'm aware of] the magnitude of the next game."
Luis Milla's Spain, with UEFA EURO 2012 winners Juan Mata, Jordi Alba and Javi Martínez in their party, were tipped to do well at the Olympics but failed to bounce back from a 1-0 loss at the hands of Japan in their Group D curtain-raiser. Honduras capitalised on La Roja's fragile confidence to triumph by the same scoreline in the second game and a goalless draw against Morocco merely compounded Spain's misery in their final match.
Switzerland did not fare much better in Group B, drawing with Gabon on 26 July before defeats by South Korea and section winners Mexico condemned them to an early exit.
Belarus, Europe's representative in Group C, triumphed in their opener against New Zealand, before a 3-1 reverse against hot favourites Brazil and a loss by the same scoreline in a duel for the runners-up spot against Egypt ended their campaign.
Japan v Egypt (Old Trafford, 13.00)
Mexico v Senegal (Wembley, 15.30)
Brazil v Honduras (Newcastle, 18.00)
Great Britain v South Korea (Cardiff, 20.30)
Semi-finals (Tuesday 7 August)
Great Britain/South Korea v Brazil/Honduras (Wembley, 18.00)
Mexico/Senegal v Japan/Egypt (Old Trafford, 20.45)
Friday 10 August
Bronze medal match (Cardiff, 20.45)
Saturday 11 August
Final (Wembley, 16.00)
(Kick-offs CET, UK is one hour behind)
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