Paul Parker

GB could be embarrassed

Paul Parker

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Forget gold medals. Great Britain could end the Olympic football tournament with red faces.

GB have just three days to prepare for their opening Olympic game against Senegal, and if the scale of the task confronting them was not already obvious, the friendly defeat to Brazil has thrown things into sharp relief.

Britain were outplayed in all departments by a vastly superior Brazil side who thankfully decided to take it easy once they were 2-0 up.

The Brazilians were a mix of established stars like Hulk and Marcelo, highly-rated kids like Oscar and Lucas Moura, and of course the most-hyped young player in the world in Neymar.

Next to them, Britain looked horribly weak.

I think we could consider it a success if we get out of the group. Avoiding embarrassment is just about the limit of our ambition.

The problems confronting Stuart Pearce in terms of selection have been well-documented.

He got the big decision right in leaving David Beckham out, but he has been left with precious little to choose from.

There is little you can do about injury, but the decision to exclude players from England's Euro 2012 squad (Jack Butland excepted) looks disastrous.

Seven more of the Euro squad could have been picked - and while nobody would suggest Jordan Henderson would turn us into world-beaters, we would look a much more dangerous side with the likes of Phil Jones, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andy Carroll.

At least it would be a team of established players used to playing in big matches against top opponents.

The fact that Premier League clubs 'wouldn't allow it' shows you how damaging the domination of club football in this country can be.

Jordi Alba has just signed for Barcelona after playing every game at the Euros, yet there is no question of him being withdrawn.

But the case of Juan Mata sums it all up for me. If he were English, Chelsea would have demanded that he return to his club after playing all of five minutes at Euro 2012.

However, the Spanish have picked him and Chelsea will just have to do without.

Spain is a country where the football structure is based around the national team and the authorities are not afraid to stand up to clubs.

What is more, the Spaniards and Brazilians take the competition very seriously indeed.

There is a lingering feeling in this country that the Olympics is somehow a minor tournament. You wouldn't catch a South American saying that.

This is a huge deal for them. Argentines are rightly very proud of the teams that won gold in 2004 and 2008 - teams that introduced players like Tevez, Messi and Aguero to the world.

Team GB's group rivals Uruguay are certainly in that mould, and have taken Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani as over-age players.

It had been hoped that the 2012 Olympics would prove a springboard for a British football team. Instead, my fear is that we will suffer an early exit and Team GB may never be seen again.

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